The entire city of Schenectady is shifting back to Democratic control in the Assembly for the first time in more than five decades.
The partisan shift comes as the two vacant seats covering the city, the 111th and 110th districts, were won by Rotterdam Democrat Angelo Santabarbara and Colonie Democrat Phil Steck, respectively.
In the 111th Assembly District, which includes Montgomery County and parts of Schenectady and Albany counties, Santabarbara, a member of the Schenectady County Legislature, defeated Republican Thomas Quackenbush, a town supervisor in Montgomery County. The seat was vacated by Republican George Amedore, who ran for the state Senate; it was represented by Democrat Paul Tonko for two decades before that.
“We spent a lot of time going door-to-door … and really listened to the needs of the district,” said Santabarbara, who lost this race in his 2010 attempt. This time, he said, his county record of economic development and fighting for his constituents resonated with voters. His campaign also highlighted votes Quackenbush made to raise taxes and his own salary.
Once he is sworn in, he said, his focus is on ensuring the 111th Assembly District gets its fair share of state education and municipal aid. “I’m ready to get to work and I’m really honored to have this opportunity,” Santabarbara said.
In the 110th Assembly District, which includes Colonie, Niskayuna and part of the city of Schenectady, Steck, a four-term Albany County legislator, easily beat Republican Jennifer Whalen, a Colonie attorney. This seat was held by four-term Assemblyman Bob Reilly, D-Colonie, who opted not to run again.
This was the second time Whalen has run for this seat, but because of redistricting that shifted the enrollment advantage from Republican to Democrat, she had a tougher battle this year.
Steck’s win was hard fought this year, emerging from a four-way Democratic primary with an underdog campaign that involved him knocking on a lot of doors.
He said his first priority, which stems from his experience as a county legislator, is to shift the burden of Medicaid away from the counties and back to the state. He also wants to change the way state education money is distributed, with a focus on sending money directly to classrooms and not administrators. “We want to get the politics out of it,” Steck said.
He added that his background as a civil rights and labor attorney will help his focus on protecting workers’ wages and reforming the way the Assembly deals with internal allegations of sexual harassment.
Heading into midnight, Assemblyman Tony Jordan, R-Jackson, had a couple thousand vote lead over Democrat Carrie Woerner, a Round Lake trustee, in the 113th Assembly District, which was too close to call. The seat was one that Democrats had hoped to steal, despite its heavy Republican enrollment advantage, with Woerner’s campaign sinking a lot of money in television ads.
This fight for this seat, which represents Saratoga Springs, revolved around Jordan highlighting his problem-solving record in the Assembly and Woerner touting her business sense and benefits as a member of the majority party.
Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, won easily in the redrawn 112th Assembly District over Glenville Democrat Michele Draves. Assessing the night’s results, Tedisco said, “Their response to me indicates my response to service.”
As the result of redistricting, his district became more rural and suburban as it shed the cities of Schenectady and Saratoga Springs in exchange for the towns of Halfmoon and Clifton Park. While focusing on the needs of the entire state, Tedisco said, “I’m going to need to concentrate on the needs of farmers, particularly the apple farmers.”
In the newly configured 102nd Assembly District, which includes Schoharie County, Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, held off a challenge from Democrat James Miller, who is a retired police detective. This will be the fourth win for Lopez and the first time he has had an opponent since his initial run in 2006.
In the 118th Assembly District, which includes Fulton County, Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, rode a large voter enrollment advantage to victory over Herkimer Democrat Joseph Chilelli.
Democrats also held on to the Capital Region seats being vacated by long-time Assembly members Jack McEneny, D-Albany, and Ron Canestrari, D-Cohoes. In the 109th Assembly District, where McEneny served, former president of the Albany City School Board Patricia Fahy, a Democrat, held off a challenge from Republican Ted Danz in the heavily Democratic district. In the 108th Assembly District, where Canestrari served, Cohoes Mayor John McDonald, a Democrat, cruised to victory against token opposition from Libertarian James Campbell.