As Tedisco collects committee endorsements in fierce state Senate primary battle, Jordan isn’t backing down in the 44th

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44th SENATE DISTRICT When first whispers of the final redistricting maps came in May, Sen. James Tedisco gave Sen. Daphne Jordan a thumbs up, and the two smiled at each other, Jordan recounted on Wednesday.

“I said, ‘we’re not pitted against each other, so that’s a great thing,’” Jordan said.

That turned out to be wrong.

The next day, Tedisco announced his intent to run in the newly redrawn 44th New York State Senate District, setting up a primary battle against Jordan that’s become fierce and personal. Voting is June 28.

As Tedisco has racked up key endorsements, including those by Republican committees in Saratoga County, Schenectady County and the city of Schenectady, Jordan is not backing down, pointing to her own endorsements from prominent names like Congressional candidate Liz Joy and New York State Conservative Party Chairman Gerard Kassar.

In a matter of weeks, the 44th district primary has turned old allies into newfound foes.

“It’s left a bad taste in my mouth. I truly don’t trust him anymore,” Jordan said. “I had full faith and confidence in him as a colleague all this time, and I lost respect. It makes me very disappointed in Jim Tedisco as a person. I don’t consider him an honorable person at this point.”

Of Jordan’s reaction, Tedisco said: “It’s just sour grapes, actually. And I’m disappointed in her. I had more respect for her before.”

Despite living what Tedisco says is a mile and a half outside the lines of the new 44th district, which includes all of Saratoga County, as well as the city of Schenectady and the town of Niskayuna, Tedisco is opting to run against Jordan instead of running in the new 46th district, where he’d likely face a general election campaign against Democratic Sen. Neil Breslin of Albany.

Jordan, of Halfmoon, currently represents the 43rd district, and Tedisco, of Glenville, represents the 49th. Jordan lives in the new 44th district and has represented the majority of Saratoga County residents since her election in 2018. Tedisco has represented other parts of Saratoga County and Schenectady since 1983, first in the Assembly, recently in the Senate. Glenville sits inside the new 46th.

The 46th includes all of Montgomery County and most of Albany and Schenectady counties. Tedisco said his decision to run in the 44th is not about a fear of facing Breslin but rather about identifying with the 44th. He said Jordan is being hypocritical and is upset because Tedisco has been backed by Republican committees.

“It’s not about my chances. I don’t relate–I don’t have any commonality–with Albany County,” Tedisco said. “You can’t say nice things about me because you want me to run in another district and then say I’m a terrible public servant because I beat you in a direct contest with the committee.”

Tedisco said he currently represents almost 60% of all voters in the new 44th district, including 12 out of 21 towns in Saratoga County. He points out that 14 out of 23 municipalities that currently have him as their state senator and would still be represented by him in the new district.

Voter turnout data from the regions in the 46th district point to a Republican candidate facing an uphill battle against Breslin.

That’s because even if Montgomery County voters favored President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden 12,745 to 7,977, voters in Albany County favored the current president 99,474 to 51,081. Making up that difference of more than 48,000 votes would be tough for any Republican candidate, even in a non-presidential year.

“Fundamentally, I think it’s a favorable Republican year. Turnout in Albany will [likely] be down this year and that would have favored [Tedisco] for sure,” said Matt Nelligan, chairman of the Schenectady Republican Committee, which announced its endorsement of Tedisco on Wednesday. “But it’s really hard to blame Senator Tedisco for not wanting to go and run in a district that includes a lot of new territory for him and has an 8.3% Democratic enrollment advantage.”

The 44th district is more evenly divided. Voters in Saratoga County went for Biden 68,471 to 61,305, but voter registration numbers in the county favor politicians on the right. The county has 53,321 Democrats compared to 64,495 Republicans and 3,022 conservatives. It also has 8,422 independents and 47,295 voters listed as not having a party affiliation.

What’s more, the two Democrats running in the 44th district are candidates Tedisco has previously beaten. In fact, Tedisco beat Thearse McCalmon 26,646 to 23,373 in Schenectady County the same year Biden handily defeated Trump in that county.

McCalmon’s campaign is already preparing to face Tedisco in November.

“Primaries are healthy and are needed in a democracy. A candidate should have to defend and be challenged on their ideas leaving the people to decide who they want as their representative,” spokesperson Paul Paterakis wrote in a statement. “Both [Democrats] are committed to unifying after the primary to strengthen the Democratic base and defeat Senator Tedisco this November.”

Citing national conversations about gun control after recent mass shootings and women’s rights after a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion on Roe V. Wade, Michelle Ostrelich, a Democratic Schenectady County legislator who is running for the 44th seat, thinks the race could be more favorable to Democrats than people would have previously thought.

“We went in expecting the midterms would bring a red wave, but with national politics the way they are, there is so much more to this race, so many more elements and subtleties,” Ostrelich said. “There is a lot more going on this election cycle than anyone predicted.”

Regardless of what happens in either primary, Jordan said she’s in the campaign until the end.

Ahead of last week’s Saratoga County Republican Committee endorsement announcement, Tedisco challenged Jordan to agree to step aside if she lost the endorsement.

After Tedisco received the endorsement, Jordan punched back.

“He’s the ONLY Senate Republican looking to cannibalize a fellow senate colleague and cost Republicans a much needed seat in what could be the best year for the Party since 1994. It’s sad and shameful,” Jordan said in a statement sent the night of the Saratoga County endorsement. “I believe that the people must and will decide this, not political bosses, or crony insiders that Jim has either fooled or strong armed. I’m in this to win it. I’m not backing down or going anywhere.”

Jordan’s allies include New York State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt, who in a statement called on Tedisco to run in the 46th.

“The maps released this weekend give every member of the Senate Republican Conference a path to victory in their current districts. I believe our members should run and win where they live, to help us restore balance in Albany,” Ortt wrote after the release of the final maps last month. “I support Senator Jordan’s re-election in the 44th District and Senator Tedisco in the 46th District. Winning both of these seats will help us defeat Albany Democrats.”

Amid all the tussling, there is one thing all sides seem able to agree on: The late changes to the district maps have made the process unsettling.

“In some cases, people didn’t know their final opponents until a few days ago,” Nelligan said. “So it’s been a weird year.”

Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.

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