Tonko bests competition

Paul Tonko outran the field in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, while James Buhrmaster handily won the

Paul Tonko outran the field in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, while James Buhrmaster handily won the Republican primary in the races for the 21st Congressional District nominations.

By 10:40 p.m. Tracey Brooks had conceded in front of her supporters at the Victory Cafe on Sheridan Avenue, and pledged support to Tonko. She said the “glass ceiling” got thinner during her effort, but not thin enough.

She was the strongest contender against Tonko, but trailed by about 3,500 votes with more than 90 percent counted. Late Tuesday Tonko was approaching 14,000 votes with Brooks above 11,000. Phillip Steck was running third with more than 6,000 votes. Darius Shahinfar garnered about 10 percent of the Democratic vote and Joseph Sullivan, about 2 percent, in unofficial tallies.

Election results

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Brooks’ campaign had earlier filed an order in state Supreme Court in Albany County to impound election machines and all paper ballots immediately after the polls closed at 9 p.m.

“It’s standard procedure in a close election should there not be an obvious winner,” Brooks’ spokesman Kyle Kotary said. “We figured it will go down to the wire.”

The final count awaits 1,500 paper ballots yet to be tallied. No date has been set as to when the ballots will be opened, but Tonko’s margin appeared beyond challenge.

Buhrmaster will face Tonko in the Nov. 4 general election.

Earlier in the day, Democrat Alex Torres of Amsterdam said he voted for Tonko. “He is a longtime friend of the community and “someone I know for many years, and he is an Amsterdamian.” Tonko defeated Brooks by a ratio of 10 to 1 in his native Montgomery County.

Torres said he was not familiar with the other candidates, other than through their advertisements. He said he prefers to meet candidates face to face. “It is very important to me to know the candidates. I like to ask questions,” he said.

Miki Conn said she voted for Tonko because he “truly is out there for people. He is interested in people and in people’s lives.”

Conn said she did consider other candidates, but “I went with someone I trusted.”

Tonko also has the Working Families Party line. Democratic candidate Phil Steck also remains on the ballot with the Independence Party line.


The race is for the successor to Democrat Michael McNulty, D- Green Island, who is retiring in January after 20 years in the House of Representatives. He was preceded by Rep. Sam Stratton, father of the current Schenectady Mayor, Brian Stratton.

Tonko officially entered the race in May, weeks after Brooks and Steck, although he had been a rumored candidate prior to the announcement. He retired last year as assemblyman for the 105th District after 24 years in office, to become head of the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority. He resigned from that position April 25 to run for Congress.

Of all the candidates, Tonko had the strongest name recognition and quickly lined up the endorsements of Democrat committees in Schenectady, Fulton, Montgomery and Schohaire counties. He also had the support of several key politicians in that important county.

Tonko has labor union support from AFSCME/CSEA, the New York State Public Employees Federation, NYSUT, the National Federation of Federal Employees and 1199 SEIU, among others.

Brooks is a former aide to U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and was relatively unknown when she entered the race. She was the first to declare and she spent the most, more than $500,000, to make her name and positions known. She had the strong support of special interest groups including Emily’s List. Emily’s assists women who support abortion rights. She also lined up key endorsements from the McNulty family, although Michael McNulty did not make an endorsement, and had the support of Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings.

In addition she had union support from the Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Steck won the Albany County Democratic Committee endorsement, while Saratoga and Rensselaer Democrats voted to wait until after the primary to endorse.

Steck, an Albany County legislator, private practice attorney and chairman of the Colonie Democratic Committee, and Darius Shahinfar, a former aide of Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, pumped in thousands of dollars in the final 10 days of the primary race to run political advertisements.

At one point 11 Democrats were in the race, but six dropped out before filing petitions in July. The remaining five spent more than $1 million getting to the primary.

On the Republican side, Buhrmaster and Steven Vasquez had battled from the start. Burhmaster painted himself as independent candidate and Vasquez as a Libertarian. Buhrmaster lined up the endorsements of all the Republican and Conservative county committees while Vasquez received the endorsement of Ron Paul, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for president.

Buhrmaster spokesman Josh Hills said “our strategy will depend on who the Democratic nominee is. We will continue with our message on cleaning up Washington.”

The district also consists of all of Schenectady, Montgomery and Schoharie counties and part of Saratoga, Fulton and Rensselaer counties.

Categories: Schenectady County

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