The lead in the 46th Senate District switched for the final time Friday morning.
Duanesburg Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk will be the state senator in the newly created district, which covers parts of Albany, Schenectady and Ulster counties and all of Greene and Montgomery counties. Heading into Friday, former Republican Assemblyman George Amedore held a 35-vote lead, but it evaporated with the counting of the remaining votes that previously had been contested.
This race has been tied up in ambiguity since Election Day, more than two months ago, when both candidates declared themselves victorious. The lead seesawed during the counting of thousands of absentee and affidavit ballots, which drew hundreds of challenges from lawyers for both campaigns who were meticulously monitoring the process.
Legal challenges to the contested ballots meandered through the state’s court system before the state Court of Appeals — the state’s highest court — put an end to the process this week by deciding not to hear any more arguments. They ordered the enforcement of a ruling by a mid-level state appeals court, which called for the counting of 99 previously invalidated ballots.
That counting began on Thursday and before noon on Friday Tkaczyk had completed her surprise victory.
“No one believed our campaign had a chance in a district hand-carved by Republicans, and yet the power of good ideas and a strong campaign proved itself,” Tkaczyk said in a news release on Friday.
The district was created in 2012 and included almost all of Amedore’s old Assembly district, which prompted most political observers to assume it was made specifically for Amedore to win. Despite the district’s configuration and its conservative leanings, there was still a Democratic enrollment edge.
A late influx of more than half a million dollars of spending on Tkaczyk’s behalf and a Democratic turnout due to President Barack Obama’s presence on the ballot helped her overcome Amedore’s early fundraising edge and a large lead he had a month before the election.
One of the groups that backed Tkaczyk’s campaign near the end was Friends of Democracy, which focused on a message of campaign finance reform. The group argued that Amedore was not the candidate to bring needed change in this area.
Friends of Democracy co-founder Jonathan Soros said Tkaczyk’s win showed that good policy turned out to be good politics. “Her victory shows that voters will support candidates who champion real campaign finance reform, including citizen-funded elections,” he said in a news release. “Her win today is an unmistakable mandate to work to change the broken campaign finance laws that have shut out the voices of regular New Yorkers.”
This sentiment was echoed by the liberal community group Citizen Action of New York, which was an early supporter of Tkaczyk and campaigned on her behalf.
Amedore personally called Tkaczyk around noon on Friday to congratulate her on her victory and to wished her well on behalf of those living in the district. “I am proud of the honest and clean campaign that I and my team ran in this extended race,” he said in a news release. “I was supported by the hard-working upstate families who are faced with tremendous challenges in these trying times.”
“The time for politics has ended and the time to govern is at hand,” Amedore added.
This could be the end of the political career for Amedore, who helps run his family’s home-building company in the Capital Region. He was first elected to the Assembly in a 2007 special election to replace Paul Tonko.
In 2008 and 2010, Amedore was easily re-elected despite the district’s Democratic enrollment edge.
“I want to thank the constituents that I’ve had the honor to serve, as well as those who supported me in this campaign,” Amedore said. “I believe our representatives need to act on behalf of those who call upstate their home.”
While not promising a rematch in 2014, Amedore did promise to continue to be an advocate for people.
Tkaczyk’s victory still needs to be certified by acting state Supreme Court Judge Guy Tomlinson, who has been overseeing the counting of paper ballots.
Also, the state Board of Elections needs to certify the new results, as they previously certified results with Amedore winning by 37 votes, and the state Senate has to give Tkaczyk her seat.
Once Tkaczyk is seated, there will be 33 Democrats in the Senate, but power will rest in a coalition of Republicans and a handful of renegade Democrats. This deal was struck while the outcome of the 46th Senate District race was still in limbo.
Despite heading into the Senate as a member of the party not in power, Tkaczyk was excited to join her fellow Democratic members in pursuit of a progressive agenda.
“I look forward to hitting the ground running to serve my new constituents because there is no time to waste addressing the many challenges facing our state,” she said.
It’s not clear what committees Tkaczyk will be put on, but based on her farming background and the location of her district, it is likely she will be named to the Senate’s agriculture committee.