There aren’t enough Republican primary votes left to be counted in the 43rd Senate District for Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, to surmount the lead Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione has built up in the battle for their party’s nomination.
In the Saratoga County Board of Elections’ Ballston Spa headquarters, Marchione lawyer Michael Cuevas emerged from Monday’s count of almost 400 absentee and affidavit ballots with a smile. “It is inevitable that Kathy Marchione will be the Republican nominee,” he said.
“We can’t say it’s over until it’s over,” Cuevas added, “but we’re feeling pretty good about where we are.”
McDonald campaign spokesman Michael Veitch released a statement on Monday night that said the campaign was considering all its options.
“Senator McDonald is very proud of his career along with the accomplishments he’s achieved during his time in office and he is honored to participate in the democratic process,” Veitch said. “We plan to have a decision about the campaign’s future by the end of this week or the beginning of next week.”
McDonald headed into Monday down 110 votes and needing to make up significant ground in Saratoga and Columbia counties, where more than 650 absentee and affidavit ballots were scheduled to be counted. When the day was over, McDonald gained 27 more votes than Marchione in Saratoga County, where almost 400 absentee and affidavit votes were counted, but Marchione gained 26 more votes than McDonald in Columbia County, where 242 absentee and affidavit ballots were counted.
As compiled by The Daily Gazette, Marchione now has 7,323 votes and McDonald has 7,214, which gives Marchione a lead of 109 votes, just 13 fewer than what it was after primary night on Sept. 13.
In each county, there were contested votes that have not been counted and require a judge to determine their validity. There was one vote laid aside in Washington County, 21 in Rensselaer County, 4 in Columbia County and about 25 in Saratoga County. But this total is less than half of what McDonald would need to catch Marchione.
At this point, the only way for the McDonald campaign to win the Republican nomination is with a hand recount of votes. A judge could order a recount if there were any voter irregularities, although election officials throughout the district haven’t reported any, and if the judge believed the hand count could be completed in time for military absentee ballots to be sent out for the general election.
Both candidates had already secured places on the Nov. 6 ballot, with Marchione as the Conservative candidate and McDonald as the Independence candidate. McDonald previously told The Daily Gazette that he would run on the Independence line regardless of what happened with the Republican nomination.
The Democratic candidate in the race is Robin Andrews, a town supervisor in Columbia County.
Before primary night, some Republicans had advocated that the loser of the Republican primary not actively campaign in the fall. Local Democrats, including members of the Saratoga County Democratic Committee, have been optimistic about their chances in a three-way race in the heavily Republican district.
It is not clear yet who Gov. Andrew Cuomo will support in the race. He announced last week that he was pulling for McDonald in the Republican primary because of McDonald’s bravery in supporting same-sex legislation. But Cuomo wouldn’t commit to him for the general election. Cuomo previously said that he would endorse each Senate race on a case by case basis, leaving the door open for him to cross party lines with his support.
The news in the 43rd Senate District contrasted to the finish announced on Monday in the 41st Senate District, where Republican incumbent Stephen Saland, who also broke with his party last summer and supported same-sex marriage, was declared the winner in his hotly contested race for his party’s nomination.
The third Republican candidate who supported same-sex marriage and had a Republican primary was Buffalo Sen. Mark Grisanti. He cruised to an easy victory on primary night.
The final count of absentee and affidavit votes wasn’t a huge surprise to the Marchione campaign, according to Cuevas. He noted that the almost 1,000 votes counted since primary night didn’t deviate much from the machine results, which is what they expected.
Based on unofficial totals compiled by The Daily Gazette, which include absentee and affidavit votes, McDonald won Saratoga County, 3,714 to 3,540, Marchione won Rensselaer County, 2,403 to 2,196, and Washington County, 208 to 132, and they tied in Columbia County, each with 1,172.