Voters in the 44th Senate District apparently returned Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, to Albany Tuesday night, handing the veteran politician his 18th consecutive two-year term in a victory against Democrat challenger Susan Savage in unofficial results.
Farley defeated Savage, of Niskayuna, chairwoman of the Schenectady County Legislature and the top elected Democrat in the county, by at least 2-1 in unofficial tallies from boards of elections in Fulton, Montgomery, Saratoga and Schenectady counties, which comprise the 44th Senate District.
“The numbers that are coming in are spectacular,” Farley said.
He said the vote tallies repudiate tactics Democrats used in the campaign against him.
“This was the meanest, nastiest campaign I ever faced, and it looks like a campaign like that does not work in my district. This looks like this may be my biggest win,” he said.
Farley’s closest re-election campaign was in 2000 against Democrat Brian Stratton, then a county legislator and now mayor of Schenectady, whose father was a popular congressman. Farley won that race 70,310 votes to 51,231.
Savage gave a concession speech and thanked all of her supporters for a hard-fought campaign Tuesday night.
The number of absentee ballots sent out totaled at least 5,755 in three counties, with at least 3,698 returned. They should not be a factor in this race. Absentee ballot counts were not available for Saratoga County.
Nonetheless, state Republicans obtained a court order to impound absentee ballots. The order means boards of elections cannot examine the ballots until Monday.
Savage was never able to close the gap with Farley. Halfway through the campaign, a Siena Research Institute poll gave Farley an 18-point lead over her. The state Democratic Senate Campaign Committee downgraded her race in late October when internal polling showed she could not win, pulling out paid workers and reallocating resources to other races involving vulnerable Senate Democrats or Democratic candidates with a better change of winning.
Savage in return ramped up her campaign network using volunteers from unions and depended more on her local political apparatus, which gave Democrats control of the Schenectady County Legislature for the first time in 37 years in 2004 and brought Savage to a leadership position there.
Senate Democrats thought they could win the seat because the district has a high number of people not affiliated with a party, 42,000. The enrollment in the district includes 77,000 Republicans and 65,000 Democrats.
Turnout in the race approached 50 percent in some counties. “That is respectable for a gubernatorial election,” said Art Brassard, Republican commissioner of the Schenectady County Board of Elections.
The committees for Savage and Farley both mounted extensive campaigns to turn out the vote Tuesday. Chris Gardner of Savage’s campaign said Savage had more than 100 people making calls and knocking on doors to get people to vote, while Bob Farley, son of the senator, said the senator’s campaign made 21,000 calls alone on Tuesday.
A sampling of voters in the district showed many did not share the anti-incumbency mood expressed by some pundits. Marie Gage of Rotterdam said she voted for candidates who had experience in politics and with whom she was familiar, picking Farley and incumbent Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, for re-election.
“I have always liked Hugh Farley. I remember him from growing up and getting a certificate from him at school,” she said. “And I voted for George because I know and trust him.”
For the most part, she supported candidates on the Independence Party line, but she added that she would vote for the person who will get the job done.
Brenda Birch of Rotterdam said she had a hard time picking candidates to support because of the negative campaigns some ran. In the end, she voted for incumbents whom she knew and trusted. “You don’t know what you are getting through all this mudslinging. One side made charges and the other said the charges are not true,” she said. “I am just happy it is over.”
Vern Welch of Rotterdam said he voted conservative, in support of his beliefs in smaller government, less taxes and less regulation. “I am a private business owner overwhelmed by taxes and regulations,” he said. “A smaller government is important.”
Robin Welch of Rotterdam said she voted for people “who will listen to the people.” In her case, those people are Republicans. “I am hoping a lot of Republicans take seats where there are Democrats,” she said.
She said she opposes the national health care reform that was pushed through by President Barack Obama and believes there needs to be a different direction in creating jobs.
In the Schenectady County Surrogate Court judge race, Democrat Vincent Versaci defeated Republican challenger Frederick “Rick” Killeen for a 10-year term. Versaci was appointed to the position by Gov. David Paterson earlier this year when Judge Barry Kramer left after being elected to the state Supreme Court in November.