Republican challenger Lorraine Diamond defeated incumbent District Attorney Kelli McCoski Tuesday by a wide margin amid a strong surge for Republicans throughout Montgomery County.
Unofficial totals show Diamond had received 10,505 votes by the end of election day (61.7 percent) on Tuesday, 3,990 votes more than McCoski, a Republican running on the Democratic Party and Conservative Party lines, who received 6,515 total votes (38.27 percent).
Democratic Election Commissioner Terry Bieniek said Montgomery County only has “about 3,200” potential absentee ballots in play, not enough to sway the race.
New York state law allows for absentee ballots postmarked by election day to return to the county board of elections within 7 days, which will be Tuesday Nov. 10. Bieniek said the county BOE will start to open the absentee ballots on Monday.
Candidates on the Republican Party line in Montgomery County performed well via in-person voting from the top down, with President Donald Trump receiving 11,500 votes, besting his 2016 count in Montgomery County of 11,301. Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden received 5,746 in-person votes, less than the 6,595 votes received by former secretary of state and New York U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2016, although the absentee votes will likely add to Biden’s total.
McCoski posted a concession statement Wednesday via her district attorney campaign Facebook page and then took the page down.
“The result was certainly not what I had expected, however, I am pleased that so many residents exercised their right to vote,” McCoski said. “I want to thank all voters that supported me by signing my petitions, put up my political signs and ultimately voted for me. I am sure that Lorraine will do the best that she is able. For now I will continue to prosecute crime vigorously until the end of the year.”
Diamond said she was confident going into election day that she would win, and she was hopeful the margin would be greater than the number of absentee ballots.
“Then I was just astounded, at one point my lead was 3,400 and then it went up to [nearly] 4,000,” she said. “We just hit the ground running back in January, and obviously I knew it was an uphill battle because I was facing an incumbent. I think, finally, my [Masters in Business Administration] paid off, and I used a lot of marketing strategy. When they threw something at me, I spun it back to my advantage. For example, I’ve been up here for 15 years, and she started out with saying she was the hometown girl local resident, and I spun that into ‘Status quo has got to go.'”
The Montgomery County District Attorney’s race featured several unique dynamics including that Diamond, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. and resident of Fultonville, had previously worked under McCoski as an assistant district attorney.
Diamond defeated McCoski, who is also a registered Republican, in the Republican Party primary in June, but McCoski was nominated directly to the Democratic Party line by the Montgomery County Democratic Party Committee.
Diamond had wanted to run in the Democratic Party primary also, but the committee did not allow her to file signatures to run in that primary.
Diamond said she believes her not being allowed to contest McCoski in the Democratic Party Primary played a role in her victory.
“Voters saw the backdoor politics that went on and they’re sick of it — they want a choice, they don’t want to be told a line is being given to someone over a handshake,” she said.
Diamond also received endorsements from a number of current and former members of law enforcement including retired Amsterdam Police chief Greg Culick, retired New York State Investigator Walter Hadsell and retired Amsterdam police officer Tom DiMezza, who serves as Town of Amsterdam Supervisor.
Diamond also received endorsements from the New York State Troopers union, the Police Council of New York union endorsement, the Fraternal Order of Police the national union for police, the teamsters union that represents the county jail corrections officers, as well as the city of Amsterdam’s Department of Public Works union.
Diamond said one reason she received the support of so many law enforcement officials relates to her stance on filing as many legal motions as possible to challenge new state requirements with regards to providing discovery information to defendants in court. She criticized McCoski for not being aggressive enough on that issue. She also said she will be a more efficient administrator for the district attorney’s office.
“The first thing we really need to do is deal with the backlog of cases put on hold due to the pandemic,” she said. “I really want to sit down and dig in, and I’m going to see how far I can go without crossing any boundaries in terms of knowing what’s coming down the pipeline, so I can start getting prepared at least mentally in terms of that.”
Diamond said during her campaign she heard rumors with respect to her eliminating positions at the district attorney’s office and hiring DiMezza, one of her most outspoken supporters, as an investigator. She said she has no plans to eliminate anyone working under McCoski.
“I posted this on Facebook, ‘I’m not hiring anybody,’ forward march. There were rumors that anybody who talked to me was getting a job, so those are all rumors, and there have been no discussions,” she said. “It’s hard for law enforcement to come out against an incumbent DA, so they streamlined their comes through Tom DiMezza and Walt Hadsell and retired Chief Culick who could voice opinions without injury. I have no current plans to hire anyone. Right now, the people who are in there, are staying in there. So, unless we start expanding positions, which I do think the office is understaffed, and I will be taking a look at that, but it’s just so early.”