Roy McDonald, a state assemblyman and former Wilton town supervisor, was elected to the state Senate Tuesday, easily winning an open seat formerly held by Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick.
“It’s quite a trip from being a laborer to being a state senator,” said McDonald at his victory celebration in Clifton Park. Now 61, he had worked in a steel mill and served in the Army in the Vietnam War before becoming an investment banker. He said he planned to serve all the people of the district, along with the Capital Region and the rest of upstate.
McDonald defeated Democratic candidate Michael Russo, running ahead of him in both Rensselaer County and, by a wide margin, in Saratoga County. He campaigned on his long record of supporting economic development and low property taxes, along with a more recent commitment to helping the families of people with disabilities.
The well-mannered race saw little in the way of ideological division on major issues such as property taxes. McDonald, unlike incumbent Republican senators, did not support Gov. David Paterson’s proposal to cap property taxes, and Russo explicitly opposed it. Both candidates supported an alternative plan pushed by Assembly Democrats that would only cap taxes for lower-income property owners and increase income taxes on those making more than $1 million per year.
McDonald, like the incumbent Republican senators, was supported by the biggest unions representing state employees, but Russo also had significant labor support.
Both candidates ran TV and radio ads along with mailings, but the better-funded McDonald was able to do much more of all three forms of media. Democrats poured money into several districts around the state in their bid to take over the Senate, but the 43rd was not one of them. Nor was it one of those districts where Siena College conducted independent opinion polls, so no one knew how close the race might be.
It turned out to be not that close, with McDonald winning by 42,504 to 24,339 votes in Saratoga County, with all but one district reporting, and by 34,234 to 26,132 in Rensselaer County.
The seat was held by Bruno until his resignation this summer. He had also led the Senate’s Republican majority for 13 1⁄2 years. He was first elected to the seat in 1976, cruising to re-election every two years.