Veteran Republican John Faso beat law professor and Democrat Zephyr Teachout for the 19th Congressional District seat, capping a close race with national implications that attracted a significant amount of outside money.
According to unofficial election results, Faso won 52 percent of the vote to Teachout’s 43 percent, with 681 out of 687 precincts reporting as of midnight Tuesday.
Faso won 153,155 votes to Teachout’s 126,538 votes. The state Board of Elections said as of Tuesday that 18,645 absentee ballots out of 28,393 had been returned, rendering the remainder obsolete.
In a statement released Tuesday night, Faso congratulated his opponent “on a hard-fought race that was closely watched not only by those living in the 19th Congressional District, but by people all over the nation.”
Faso said he would work to put aside partisan politics and end the gridlock in Congress.
“By the turnout today, the American people have said that they want us to work together to solve problems,” said Faso in his statement. “They demand that we put aside our partisan impulses and work for the common good of all. That is what I plan to do and I will need to your help and your prayers to make sure we do the right things.”
Teachout said in a statement Tuesday night that she’s “incredibly proud” of her campaign and touted the $19 average donation that she credits with fueling it.
“It’s because of the parents, teachers, veterans, farmers and small business owners in the 19th Congressional District that this race was as close as it is,” she said in her statement. “We showed them that we the people will not be dictated to, and our fight continues.”
She indicated that she’ll continue to work to overturn Citizens United and stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Both candidates were vying to succeed Rep. Chris Gibson, who after mulling a run for governor decided instead to teach a leadership course at Williams College and spend more time with his family.
The 19th Congressional District includes all of Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties and parts of Broome, Dutchess, Montgomery and Rensselaer counties. Democrats have a slight enrollment edge of about 2,300 people in the district.
Teachout, a tenured professor at Fordham Law School, gained significant recognition in the state after an insurgent primary run for governor in 2014 in which she won 34 percent of the vote.
She used that momentum as a springboard for her congressional bid, where she touted her progressive stances on a range of issues from campaign finance reform to the environment.
Late polls that indicated the congressional race would be close appeared to have been off.
A Siena Research Institute/Time Warner Cable poll in late-September put Faso one point ahead of Teachout. Another poll by the same group released Nov. 6 put Faso at six points ahead of Teachout.
Faso, a longtime Kinderhook resident, is politically experienced and has lived in the district for 33 years.
He served as a Republican member of the state Assembly’s 102nd District from 1987 to 2002, the last four years of which were spent as Assembly minority leader.
He launched an unsuccessful bid for state comptroller in 2002 and an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2006. He became a partner in the national law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP after leaving the Assembly.
Faso campaigned on a platform of reining in federal regulation of small business, particularly banks, gun rights, supporting veterans and seniors, and creating jobs in upstate New York.
He also painted his rival as an out-of-touch Brooklyn transplant who moved into the district solely so she could run for Congress (Teachout moved into the district last March, but said she grew up in a rural county in Vermont similar to the 19th district).
Teachout characterized Faso as a PAC-happy lobbyist who would maintain the status quo and was too politically entrenched to effect real change in Congress.
Both candidates campaigned heavily on reviving the upstate economy, reducing the tax burden for property owners and eradicating the scourge of heroin in the district. They also agreed to only serve five terms in Congress if elected.
The race saw close to $7.8 million in spending from outside groups and over $13 million overall when factoring in each campaign’s expenditures.
According to federal election filings, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent $1.3 million opposing Faso this campaign cycle, while the National Republican Campaign Committee has spent roughly the same amount opposing Teachout.
The Republican-leaning Super-PAC Congressional Leadership Fund spent $3 million in ads opposing Teachout, while the Democrat-aligned End Citizens United PAC spent $420,000 opposing Faso.
Other Super-PACs that have thrown money at this race include the NY Jobs Council, which spent $93,000 opposing Faso, and National Horizon, which spent $150,000 opposing Teachout.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Faso has benefited from $5.5 million in outside spending while Teachout has benefited from $2.3 million. The Siena Research Institute’s Steven Greenberg said the amount of outside money that was put into the race is in line with a national effort by Democrats to take over the U.S. House of Representatives and a concentrated effort by Republicans to retain their majority.
Reach Gazette reporter Dan Fitzsimmons at 852-9605, [email protected] or @DanFitzsimmons on Twitter.
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