Rensselaer County candidates question election integrity

RENSSELAER – To walk in Richard Mooney’s shoes these days is to understand that in political campaigns, every vote counts.

“It makes a difference because the integrity of the election was at stake,” Mooney said.

When Mooney, a Democrat, ran for mayor of Rensselaer in November 2021, he lost by 43 votes. Republican Mike Stammel came out on top.

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Mooney believes that election was rampant with fraud and political chicanery, which is why he thinks it’s possible he might have won.

“We’ll never know,” he said, “We believe there were things going on behind the scenes in the Republican party and we’ll just never know now.”

In the ensuing months after the election, both the FBI and the state attorney general began investigating. Troy Councilwoman Kimberly Ashe-McPherson has already pleaded guilty to election fraud.

Former Rensselaer County Elections Commissioner Jason Schofield will also plead guilty next week, reports the Times Union.

“I’m no surprised,” Mooney said. “My team and I, we saw things during the campaign that raised red flags, and unfortunately we ran out of time and money to pursue those.”

Schofield was arrested in September, charged in a nine-page indictment with fraudulently obtaining and filing absentee ballots using personal information from several voters without their permission.

Meanwhile, Rensselaer Mayor Mike Stammel, responding to Mooney’s allegations, said, “Rich Mooney is acting childish. He should grow up. The election was fair and the allegations have no merit. He should stop acting like Hillary Clinton. If he wants to run again, he can.”

“I don’t think we’re piling on,” Mooney said. “I think we’re stating the facts of what took place during a very raucous campaign.”

In her raucous campaign for the County Legislature, Lark Rutecki came up 49 votes short. She, too, suspects chicanery.

“I hoped to represent the voters of Rensselaer County and for the election to be called into question because of cheating is really unfortunate,” she said. “For folks whose vote was essentially coopted, I just find that reprehensible. By taking away someone’s voice and making a presumption of what’s good and what should be done is unacceptable.”