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Carlton Fletcher

“All I made was one mistake ...”

— .38 Special

I’m certain Chad Warbington and Roger Marietta both wanted to appear magnanimous, and there’s no doubt that each had his own reason to play down “Sign-gate” as a determining factor in Warbington’s 20-vote win over Marietta in Tuesday’s Albany municipal election.

Marietta, who was videotaped taking two of Warbington’s campaign signs out of homeowners’ yards — without their permission — and throwing them on the back of his pickup, said the sign issue was a minor factor in his defeat after 12 years on the board. Warbington said shortly after he was declared the winner in the Ward IV race that he felt the “momentum begin to shift” in his favor before the sign issue even popped up. He even told The Albany Herald, “(The sign issue) was certainly not a cornerstone of my campaign.”

The truth is, though, Sign-gate was the determining factor in the Ward IV race. Had Marietta refrained from taking those signs, or if he hadn’t been caught on tape taking them, he would be preparing to serve four more years on the commission.

Warbington is certainly a qualified candidate. He is well-versed on the issues impacting the city, and he has compelling ideas on how they can be solved. But the truth is he is not especially popular in the African-American community, and roughly half or more of the voters in Ward IV are black. I talked to one such voter Friday, and she told me she felt Warbington had “stolen” the election.

When I pointed out that it was, in actuality, Marietta who had gift-wrapped the vote for his opponent by doing something many voters could not forgive, she would not be convinced. She agreed that Marietta hurt himself with his actions, but she said, like many other voters had before her, that “that bad thing did not erase all the good things Roger has done for us during his time in office.”

Many of Marietta’s supporters, obviously, remained loyal to him despite the embarrassing sign issue. But many of the ones who did not — several who told me they “could not bring themselves to vote for Marietta for what he did” or Warbington “because of what he might do in office” — chose to go the route of the Trump-Clinton presidential race. They simply chose to vote for neither candidate.

One told me Thursday, “This was not a case of ‘voting for the lesser of two evils’ like the presidential race, it was more a case of not giving something I hold sacred — my vote — to candidates who did not deserve it.”

Here’s what Marietta will be pondering on Tuesday nights for at least the next four years: All it took was for 20 people — among the 2,936 who cast ballots, including provisional ballots that were certified Friday — who decided not to vote because of the sign issue to make up the difference in a ward with more than 10,000 voters.

There’s no scientific method to prove such a theory, but it’s a sure bet that a good many more than 20 people decided to sit out the election rather than vote for someone they felt had let them down or someone they said they did not trust. But on such matters, elections are swung.

Someone who follows politics closely told me a month or so before Tuesday’s election that “there’s no way the people in Ward IV are going to elect Chad Warbington unless there is a big shift in his demeanor or Roger Marietta does something really stupid.” As it turns out, Marietta did. And now the citizens of Ward IV have a new commissioner who will represent them.

Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

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