Roy McDonald and Kathy Marchione are heading for a rematch in the 43rd Senate District in November, with their first head-to-head battle for the Republican nomination on Thursday concluding without a clear winner late in the evening.
Early this afternoon, state Sen. Roy McDonald trailed Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione by about 134 votes. McDonald had 6,663 votes and Marchione had 6797 votes. Still up for grabs, though, are a handful of affadavit ballots and at least 977 absentee ballots.
What has been decided, is that the two will meet again on Nov. 6, as Marchione won the Conservative Party nomination on Thursday night and McDonald is the Independence Party nominee. The third candidate on the ballot will be Democrat Robin Andrews, who is a town supervisor in Columbia County.
Marchione was flying high as she addressed her supporters at the Fairways of Halfmoon banquet hall around 11 p.m. “My friends, the race is too close to call,” she announced to cheers from a crowd of about 100. She described the close vote as a win for her underdog candidacy, which was outspent and faced party establishment resistance.
McDonald, who had between 100 and 200 supporters at the Holiday Inn of Saratoga Springs, made a late appearance for his supporters. His spokesman Michael Veitch said, “It’s very close and will come down to absentee ballots.”
In Saratoga County the unofficial primary day total had McDonald at 3464 votes and Marchione had 3,333. In Rensselaer County, where 57 of 57 election districts were reporting, Marchione had 2,247 votes and McDonald had 2,043 votes. The unofficial results in Washington County had Marchione with 197 votes and McDonald with 122 votes. In Columbia County, the unofficial results put McDonald narrowly ahead, with 1034 votes to Marchione's 1020 votes.
According to boards of election officials from the four counties in the district, 1491 absentee ballots were sent to Republicans in the district and 977 had been recieved as of Friday afternoon.
These ballots, which will continue to trickle in over the next few days, will be opened next week.
Marchione supporters felt good about their chances, especially considering they won Rensselaer County, which is the home county of McDonald and was expected to be safely in his camp.
The day was not without some voting complications.
As expected, Republican voters who live in Saratoga County but aren’t part of the district showed up at their polling places. One polling location in Clifton Park, which previously was in the district, was described as chaotic.
This race began in April when Marchione emerged as the Republican challenger to McDonald after Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, R-Melrose, abandoned plans for a run. He had been meeting with Republican committees in Saratoga County and was getting positive responses, but declined to run, citing bad timing and the amount of special interest money in the district.
Marchione ran against McDonald’s affirmative vote on same-sex marriage and his support for a tax reform package that extended a version of the millionaire’s tax. McDonald stressed his record of low taxes and job creation.
In the final weeks of the election, the conversation from the two campaigns revolved around Marchione’s benefits as county clerk and McDonald’s vote on same sex marriage.
The two candidates met on Tuesday for a debate in Troy, where an excitable crowd embodied the tension that has built up in this race.
This was one of the most expensive Senate primary elections ever in the state, easily quadrupling the amount spent in McDonald’s 2008 senate primary battle.
According to the total expenses detailed in three campaign finance filings with the New York Board of Elections this summer, McDonald spent $647,403 and Marchione spent $143,563. It is likely, though, that both campaigns spent more than these figures, as they both purchased television advertisements after the most recent filing deadline.
Prior to the election, Marchione’s campaign said she would stick around for the general election, if she lost the Republican primary and was nominated by the Conservative primary. On Friday her spokesman Ken Girardin said, "We're focused on the general election."
McDonald, who has the Independence nomination sewn up, has declined to speculate on his general election prospects if he loses the Republican nomination. His spokesman did not respond to a phone call and text message on Friday.
It is almost impossible for the candidates to be removed from their third party lines for the general election.
Before the results were in on Thursday night, Saratoga County Republican Committee Chairman hopeful Chris Callaghan, the committee’s treasurer, said that the loser of the Republican primary should do what is best for the party and not campaign as a third party candidate. “I think whoever loses should fold up their tent,” said Callaghan, who supports McDonald.
McDonald supporter Patti Southworth, the Ballston Town Supervisor and chairwoman of the Independence Party in Saratoga County, stressed that McDonald is in this race for the long haul. “We want to return the right candidate to the Senate,” she said.
There are about 69,000 enrolled Republicans in the district, with 32,738 in Saratoga County, where turnout was about 20 percent, 22,196 in Rensselaer County, where turnout was about 19 percent, 12,705 in Columbia County, where turnout was about 16 percent, and 1394 in Washington County, where turnout was about 23 percent. Based on the the unofficial totals, turnout for the entire district was about 19 percent, if you don't include the absentee ballots.