The uphill climb for Sen. Roy McDonald to gain the Republication nomination in the 43rd Senate District got steeper after absentee and affidavit ballots were counted in Rensselaer and Washington counties, where Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione padded her lead with four more votes.
In the fluctuating district total, Marchione now has 7,005 votes and McDonald has 6,895. She ended Thursday with a 110-vote lead, with more than 650 absentee ballots still to be counted in Saratoga and Columbia counties Monday.
McDonald made up ground Wednesday when machine ballots from primary day in Saratoga County were reviewed and he gained 16 votes on Marchione.
He ceded some of that momentum in Rensselaer County on Thursday, where commissioners from the county Board of Elections and lawyers from both campaigns reviewed more than 320 absentee ballots and about 20 affidavit ballots.
The generally jovial process, which included a few combative moments, netted Marchione three additional votes, as her total grew by 156 and McDonald’s grew by 153. Marchione, who narrowly won Rensselaer on primary day by more than 200 votes, now has 2,403 in the county to McDonald’s 2,196.
Still left to be decided in Rensselaer County are 21 votes that were laid aside and need to have their validity ruled on by a judge. These votes were objected to by the campaigns — 19 by Marchione’s lawyers and two by McDonald’s lawyers.
After Marchione attorney John Sweeney, a former Republican congressman from the area, made three objections in a row in North Greenbush, McDonald lawyer Jeff Buley questioned the tactic.
“Do you have a foundation for these or not?” Buley asked.
Sweeney responded: “There’s no requirement to state that.”
This prompted Buley to suggest that the Marchione campaign was using its objections to obfuscate and delay the process.
Ballots that were objected to included ones with an incorrect date, envelopes that were open and signatures that didn’t match. There were also general objections, like the one that drew Buley’s ire.
Marchione campaign spokesman Ken Girardin described Buley’s remarks, which he only made once, as odd.
There was also one ballot laid aside in the counting of absentee and affidavit ballots in Washington County on Thursday, according to the Marchione campaign.
There Marchione advanced by one vote, as her total in the county grew to 208 and McDonald’s to 132.
Midway through the day Thursday, Sweeney said the Marchione campaign felt like it was in a good place heading into the weekend. Buley’s message was less positive for the McDonald campaign. He said it was important for them to make up ground in Rensselaer County, but it was there that they ultimately fell further behind.
There are more than 650 absentee and affidavit ballots that will be counted on Monday in Saratoga and Columbia counties.
Sweeney said at this point, the field is diminishing for McDonald. “You’re looking at percentages that have to go beyond what the voting machines projected,” he said, noting that McDonald would have to win about 60 percent of the remaining votes to end up on top. On primary day, McDonald won about 51 percent of the vote in Saratoga and Columbia Counties.
Once all the votes are counted, the votes that were laid aside will be ruled on by a judge and potentially counted, but only if there are enough to swing the race.
Both candidates have secured third-party ballots for November and have told The Daily Gazette they plan on actively campaigning regardless of who wins the Republican primary.