The year was 1974, and former Schenectady Court Judge William Quinn became the first Democrat to win an election in the Fourth Judicial District in more than 62 years. When he retired due to illness six years later, he was to be the last from his party to serve as a state Supreme Court justice in the 11-county district.
That was until political neophyte Bob Muller ran for the court this year.
Unofficial results have the Glens Falls attorney leading Republican incumbent James Dawson by more than 22,000 votes, meaning he is all but guaranteed a seat. The count Wednesday was 147,268 to Dawson’s 124,657. Two incumbent Republicans, Vito Caruso and Stephen Ferradino, were reelected.
“It’s a wonderful end to a hard battle,” he said Wednesday. “And it was a hard battle.”
The victory is nothing short of remarkable considering the number of Republican voters in the district. Figures from the state Board of Elections indicate that the GOP has more than a 56,000 edge over the Democrats.
Muller, who had never run a political campaign before, said his edge in the race came when he sought endorsements from Conservative voters. Too often, he said candidates assume the Conservative vote — more than 10,000 across the district — is left to the Republicans.
Muller barnstormed across the district meeting leading Conservatives and seeking party endorsements where there was a committee. He drew votes from an area previously untapped by Democrats.
“I met them and picked up their support,” Muller recalled from his campaign travels, which spanned nearly 13,000 miles across the state. “It’s a great personal victory.”
Muller’s Democratic predecessor on the bench employed a similar tactic. Quinn secured the Conservative Party nomination in Schenectady County on his way to unseating Justice Robert Bascom by about 19,000 votes.
Aside from Quinn, there was only one other Democratic justice to sit in the 4th District since 1912. Morris Marshall Cohn was appointed to the court for fi ve months in 1955 but was unsuccessful in his run for a 14-year term.
Muller’s career in politics will be short-lived, said Caruso, the district’s administrative justice. He said the politics end after the election and before any of the justices take their seat on the bench.
“Once he puts the robes on and takes the oath, he’s out of politics,” he said. “You’re totally stripped of any political bias.”
This week, Caruso will be meeting with the court’s chief administrator to determine the judicial assignments. He said Muller will likely pick up Essex County, where many of Dawson’s roughly 700 active cases are located.
Caruso said Muller will also have a bit of a learning curve coming to the bench. Though Muller has a law career spanning nearly three decades, the justiceelect hasn’t had any experience on the bench.
It’s a feeling Caruso is familiar with. He came to the 4th District 14 years ago without having any experience on the bench.
“I know what he’s going through,” he said.