New Democratic Faction Presents Slate of Candidates
September 23rd 2012 · 7 Comments
Utica, NY – A new group calling themselves the Concerned Utica Democrats have sent out a press release and letter to committee members in the Utica Democratic Committee nominating their own candidate for City Chairman. Frank Meola, a Councilman At-Large, is the current chairman and has indicated that he will seek reelection to the post.
The press release stated, “Coming off a large primary victory in the 1st and 5th Wards. The Concerned Utica Democrats released a letter to all new City Democratic Committee members today announcing who they plan to endorse for Utica City Democratic Committee Chairman. Their candidate, Dr. Mike Wicks comes with a very impressive resume’ and is currently serving as a board member on the Mohawk Valley Water Authority.
Mike Wicks is a retired Air Force scientist and member of the Mohawk Valley Water Authority board. The Utica native also is a part-time researcher at the University of Dayton in Ohio. Wicks has an extensive academic background that includes a PhD from Syracuse University. Also running on their slate of candidates for the executive committee are Mark W. Mazzo for Vice Chairman, Lori Washburn for Secretary and Merzuk Hozanovic for Treasurer.
Meola said the move comes as a surprise to him as he feels the party has been successful in Utica and wishes to continue to build on that success. Meola pointed to the Democrats’ 7-2 supper-majority in the city council, a Democratic Council President and two consecutive Democratic Mayors as examples of the success the party has had. The Democrats also picked up three county legislative seats in Utica that were previously held by Republicans in last year’s local elections.
Fourth Ward Chairman, Joseph Marino, says he is 100% behind Meola for the position, as did several other committee members contacted by the Phoenix.
The group is being spearheaded by councilman James Zecca, along with former council candidate Mark Mazzo, who challenged Democratic incumbent Jerome McKinsey as an independent last year. Also involved is longtime political operative and controversial former first ward chairman, Larry Joseph. Joseph was also a candidate for Common Council in 1983, losing to incumbent Roseanne Convertino, now a county legislator.
Zecca is in his final term on the council due to term limits. He was a former chairman of the Independence Party of Oneida County.
The group first surfaced in this year’s primaries for committee seats where they challenged many incumbents and ran an organized effort to unseat many longtime committeemen. They were successful in ten of the twelve races they challenged and filled several other vacant seats throughout the first and fifth wards.
Joseph was recently a committee chairman in the first ward and resigned from the committee last year.
There was no official filing with the state of any committee with this name, which would be required by election law if they plan to spend any resources for party or election purposes. Mazzo said they’re simply a group of concerned Democrats that “are made up of Democratic committee members and other Democrats within the city and county whose sole purpose is to rebuild our Democratic Party.”
When asked what the ultimate goal of the group was, he stated a long list of reforms and hopes of more community involvement for the party. He also cited a need to getting back to the core principles of the Democratic Party. One major reform being sought is to eliminate the ability of elected officials being able to sit on the executive committee. The executive committee conducts all screenings of potential candidates and makes recommendations for endorsements. The voting members of the executive committee consists of the six ward chairs and the city chair. Currently, three members of the executive committee are incumbent city councilmen, which could present a conflict if their prospective opponents needed to screen for the party’s endorsement.
Asked about their chances of unseating Meola, Mazzo said the party has yet to receive any official notification that Meola was even seeking election. “As of this date, we have not received any correspondence and are unaware of any intention of Frank Meola re-seeking this position. We have already released our choice for City Chairman Dr. Michael Wicks and his impresive credentials speak for themselves. We strongly believe people in Utica want change and have overwhelming support throughout the city,” Mazzo said.
The committee is set to meet and vote on appointments October 4.