Homebuilder George Amedore Jr. seemed to have just about everything working in his favor during his first run for state Senate earlier this year.
The three-term Republican assemblyman had the benefit of name recognition and a new Senate district carved out of a five-county area almost tailored for his run. He also had the benefit of having a well-heeled and well-oiled campaign, which raised more than a half-million dollars over six months — more than five times what the campaign of Democratic opponent Cecilia Tkaczyk collected over the same period.
Then everything changed abruptly. With just over two weeks remaining before the election, a pair of New York City-based political action committees financed by a collection of affluent activists would even the fiscal playing field by splurging on campaign advertisements supporting Tkaczyk, a political novice whose only experience was on the Duanesburg school board.
Meet the candidates
BALLOT LINES: Republican, Conservative and Independence
EDUCATION: Graduated Schalmont High School
EXPERIENCE: Assemblyman since July 2007; executive vice president of Amedore Homes
BALLOT LINES: Democratic, Working Family, Green Party
EDUCATION: B.S. in agricultural science from Rutgers University
EXPERIENCE: Executive director of the Neighborhood Preservation Coalition of New York State; vice president, former president of the Duanesburg Central School District Board of Education
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and husband Sean Eldridge pledged to spend at least $250,000 to fund mailings for Tkaczyk, while Friends of Democracy — an organization co-founded by billionaire George Soros’ son Jonathan — pumped another $250,000 to buy television ads in support of her campaign. Both said they were supporting Tkaczyk because of her advocacy for publicly financed campaigns.
Tkaczyk has also gotten a recent boost from the Communications Workers of America. Ads funded by the union in support of her campaign have recently been broadcast on television.
The infusion of support both changed the dynamics of the race and refocused its primary message on campaign finance reform. Amedore has publicly decried the money pouring into the race and offered it as evidence that special interest is fueling his opponent.
“People and businesses contributed to my campaign because of who I am, not who they can buy,” he said Wednesday. “It’s unfortunate that my opponent has taken more than half a million dollars from special interest groups from outside the district who now want to steal this seat from those residing here.”
Tkaczyk said it’s the other way around. She said reforming the way campaigns are financed has been a goal of hers since she decided to run for office and that it’s Amedore who has become beholden to special interest.
“We need to send representatives who will truly serve their constituents, not their donors, and that is why we need to get big money out of political campaigns,” she said.
Both candidates said they favor reform, but differ on the way they suggest it should be done. Tkaczyk supports creating a system of public financing for political campaigns and said such a system could be funded by finding efficiencies in the election system.
For instance, Tkaczyk said having elections and primaries on one day could save big on the overall cost of races. She also believes ending the practice of campaign-style mailers being used by elected officials and paid for by tax dollars would generate additional savings that could then be used for a publicly funded campaign finance system much like the one now in place in New York City.
Amedore said he favors “true campaign finance reform” involving detailed disclosures from candidates and restrictions that would prevent office holders from directing public funds toward those entities or individuals who contributed to them.
“I am for true campaign finance reform where everything must be reported in your ethics and campaign disclosures,” he said.
The 46th District includes parts of Montgomery, Schenectady, Albany, Ulster and Greene counties. The seat was created earlier this year as part of the state Legislature’s redistricting effort.
Tkaczyk, 50, is the executive director of the Neighborhood Preservation Coalition of New York state and serves as vice president of the Board of Education for the Duanesburg Central School District. If elected, her priorities included helping to bolster the upstate economy, getting small city and rural school districts their fair share of education aid, supporting the Reproductive Health Act and raising the minimum wage.
“When New Yorkers are paid fairly and receive more income, they spend more locally and that will stimulate economic growth,” she said.
Amedore, 43, is the executive vice president of Amedore Homes and has served in the Assembly since winning a July 2007 special election for the seat once held by U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko. In running for a Senate seat, he said he’s hoping to continue some of the recent state efforts to create jobs, deliver tax relief to middle-class families and keep the state on track to reduce its massive deficit.
Amedore said his strength as a businessman with legislative experience differentiates him from his opponent. He said he’s shown he can work with the Democratic majority in the Assembly in a bipartisan way to help bring positive change in the state.
“We are not in dysfunction junction any longer,” he said. “We are working on behalf of the people of this great state.”
Tkaczyk said her support for school funding, a minimum wage increase and women’s reproductive rights all separate her from her opponent. In contrast, she said Amedore has consistently demonstrated he puts his own interests ahead of his constituents.