U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, appeared to easily win a third term in Congress Tuesday night.
In unofficial results, Tonko had a 2-to-1 lead over Robert Dieterich of Glenville, a Republican-Conservative.
It was Dieterich’s first bid for political office while Tonko has held political office since first being elected to the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors in 1974 and then to the Assembly. He also served briefly as president and CEO of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority before being elected to Congress in 2009 to represent the 21st Congressional District.
Dieterich is a senior vice president and chief financial officer with 1st National Bank of Scotia.
Tonko said he appeared to win the race because “we were successful in getting our message out about strengthening the middle class. I stayed on message and I feel very encouraged that the message connected with people.”
Tonko said voters understand “there is still work to do” and by that sending him back to Washington “we will continue to invest in growth and the middle class.”
Tonko will represent the newly drawn 20th Congressional District, which includes all or parts of Schenectady, Saratoga, Albany, Montgomery and Rensselaer counties.
The race was noteworthy for its lack of divisive political narrative, the candidates said. “The tone of our race has been positive. Bob wanted this to be a race based on issues and not based on competing sound bites,” said spokesman Pat Ziegler. “We ran a strong, fiscally conservative campaign. We knocked on thousands of doors and made thousands of phone calls.”
Ziegler said Tonko’s ads were also upbeat, focusing on issues and not on knocking his opponent.
Tonko outraised and outspent Dieterich by slightly more than 4-to-1 in the campaign: $920,000 to $212,000 in fundraising and $700,000 to $171,000 in spending. “We could have done a lot more if we had resources to be on the air,” Ziegler said.
Ziegler called Tonko a formidable opponent. “He is very polished and smooth and he does not make mistakes,” he said. “He is disciplined and he worked hard on the campaign trail.”
Dieterich spent Election Day in the field, looking for votes. He visited all five counties in the congressional district, hitting up cafes and diners and meeting with business owners. “He was fighting for every last vote he could get,” Ziegler said.
Tonko took a different tack. After voting in Amsterdam, he visited Pinewood Elementary School in Schenectady and spoke with fifth-graders about the importance of voting and the life of a congressman, said spokesman Sean Shortell.
Tonko also visited a church at noon for brunch and met with elected officials and city workers in both Cohoes and Troy later in the day. In the evening, he visited the campaign headquarters of Democrats in various counties.
During the run-up to Tuesday’s vote, Tonko spent some of his time assisting fellow Democrats seeking office, lending his persona to their efforts.
Ziegler said that part of Tonko’s campaign was troubling to him. “I saw him do that several times. That was more of an issue for me and that would upset me more as a constituent,” he said.
Ziegler said Tonko should have spent time reconnecting with the district and more time with the people and learning what difficulties they are facing, especially since he was going to be in a new congressional district.