“What did I have to lose?”
That’s the question a relaxed George Amedore posed from the Albany office of his family’s construction company on Thursday afternoon, as he reflected on the decision last spring to run for the state Senate. That bid ended last week, more than two months after Election Day, with the former Republican assemblyman losing by 18 votes to Duanesburg Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk.
Despite still believing he would have won if votes were counted strictly, the 43-year-old Amedore said he is at peace. “I haven’t lost sleep over it,” he said, noting there is still his family, his business and a chance to help people. “The only thing that was taken away from me was a title, and titles don’t even buy me a cup of coffee.”
“I have the desire to serve, whether it’s in the Legislature or not, we’ll see,” he said.
The emphasis on service was ingrained in him through his upbringing, heavily influenced by Italian immigrant great-grandparents and his faith, which shapes the way he talks about helping people. A regular at the Bethel Full Gospel Church in Rotterdam and a member of the Calvary Tabernacle in Schenectady, he uses a Mormon phrase: “Where much is given, much is required,” to define his internal drive.
That pushed him into public life.
Amedore hadn’t considered running for public office, but a vacancy in his Assembly District opened up in 2007. That was when then-Assemblyman Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, was tapped to lead the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. It took some cajoling from Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, for Amedore to enter the race for the open seat. A self-described political novice at the time, Amedore said months of deliberations with his family, prayer and convincing from Tedisco helped him make his decision.
He was already involved with charitable organizations in the Capital Region, like the Ronald McDonald House. And he was using his family home construction business to help people, notably on an episode of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and was financially supporting orphanages around the world. To pass up a chance to serve his backyard of Montgomery and Schenectady counties in the state Assembly, he said, would have been hypocritical.
Amedore didn’t know what to expect heading into that special election campaign season, which lasted less than two months. “Everybody told me it was a sprint, not a marathon. I didn’t know what they were talking about,” he said with a laugh. “I circled around that district ... not just hitting doors and shaking hands, but making thousands of telephone calls ... going to events and listening.”
He won that special election and joined the Assembly as part of the GOP minority, which continues to be at the mercy of the overwhelming Democratic downstate control. This reality hadn’t dawned on Amedore, who was focused on bringing his background in business to the state Legislature.
Practical experience in business, like making budgets, shaped his positions and he was driven by the idea that he was a citizen legislator serving for a brief period.
He described his time in office as marked by hundreds of small victories for his constituents, like helping a man in Montgomery County get a directional sign in his neighborhood, and a handful of major victories, like the enactment of a property tax cap that he and other Republicans had promoted for years and ultimately became law under Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And there were the moments that he shared privately in the aftermath of Tropical Storms Irene and Lee, when he went into his district to try to console, aid and support his constituents.
But there was a chance to do more and do it more quickly in the state Senate, he said, where the Republican Party was in control. Before actually making the attempt in 2012, Amedore said he considered running for the Senate when Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, eventually retired. Farley ran successfully again in 2012. But Amedore’s chance came anyway, as redistricting moved his home in Rotterdam out of Farley’s Senate district and put him in a new open district that included most of his former Assembly turf.
“No one ever approached me before any official lines were announced,” Amedore said about speculations that the district was drawn by the Senate Republicans with him in mind. He feels that the media built up a myth that the district, which he voted against creating, was drawn specifically for him. He contended that if it had been designed for him, it would have been made more friendly and not had a plurality of registered Democrats.
Amedore said, “I thought this would be a good opportunity to go and run for this office.”
The campaign between him and Tkaczyk was long and bloody. With a large fundraising advantage and the early favorite, Amedore’s campaign oozed a positive message that emphasized his background in business.
Tkaczyk’s campaign and organized labor groups attacked him continuously with harsh language. It wasn’t until more than half a million dollars in political spending on Tkaczyk’s behalf got injected into the final month of the race that things actually got tight.
Reflecting on the influx of downstate money in the race, Amedore said, “Some of the influence was unfortunate.”
He is unapologetic about the support he got from New York City businesses, which he says have philosophies in line with his and want to achieve a thriving economy. He argued this was in contrast to Tkaczyk’s support, which almost entirely came from two political action committees pushing for campaign finance reform. Because she got almost all of her support from just a handful of backers, Amedore questioned whether Tkaczyk would become beholden to them.
Less than 24 hours after his quest for the state Senate ended with a court-ordered final count, Amedore was back in the public eye, this time as an advocate for gun rights. An opponent of recent state gun control legislation and an avid sportsman, he went to a rally at the Capitol last Saturday as a private citizen with plans to only watch. When he was recognized by a crowd that immediately called for him to speak, against his protests, Amedore said, “I just went up there and spoke my piece.”
At the microphone he delivered a rousing attack on the proponents of this legislation and sparked a frenzy in the crowd that prompted chants of “USA” and “America."
This issue is especially important to him, Amedore said, as one of the many God given rights codified by the country’s founders that are now being trampled. Moving forward he wants to continue to defend civil liberties.
“I believe that I’m not done with public service,” he said. “I believe that I will continue to advocate for people, groups and organizations.”