Democratic challengers are lining up for the state Senate seat now occupied by longtime incumbent Republican Hugh Farley, including the former supervisor of Ballston and the candidate who ran against him two years ago.
Madelyn Thorne, a Democrat who challenged Farley in 2012, has already received endorsements from two of the five counties in the sprawling 49th Senate District.
But on Saturday, former Ballston Supervisor Patti Southworth announced she’ll wage a primary campaign for the Democratic Party’s endorsement to challenge Farley, who has won 19 consecutive elections and is the most senior member in the state Senate.
Asked about the challengers, Farley said he takes both of them seriously. But he remains resolved to retain the district the seat he’s occupied ever since beating Democrat Fred Isabella in 1976.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Farley, who will turn 82 in November. “I won very handily [in 2012] and I hope I can do even better this year.”
Thorne’s first challenge to Farley fell about 23,000 votes short in 2012. But she didn’t announce her candidacy until July, which left her with little time to galvanize support in a massive district that stretches to Hamilton County in the north and Herkimer County to the west.
Thorne, 60, said she quickly decided to take another go at the district even as election night results rolled in and she’s been campaigning ever since. She said the time has allowed her a chance to travel the district and meet with party leaders — something she believes will be an advantage as her campaign picks up steam.
“I think we’re going to close the deal,” she said.
Thorne said her campaign will continue to focus on the ineffective leadership in the Senate and the needs of the district not being met by Farley. She said the district deserves someone who will work hard and not a “career legislator” out of touch with their needs.
“We need people who are willing to go in there and do the work and that’s what I am about,” she said.
Southworth, 54, served six years as supervisor before abandoning a run at re-election last spring. At the time, the Democrat-turned-Independence Party member was interested in running for county clerk. She has since rejoined the Democratic Party.
On Saturday, Southworth announced she’ll challenge for Farley’s seat on a radio program hosted by longtime Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett. She said she’s not concerned about endorsements from the various party leaders and intends to wage a primary for the Democratic nomination to give the voting public an opportunity to decide who will face Farley.
“I offer a clear distinctive alternative to the business-as-usual and culture of corruption in Albany,” she said.
Southworth also believes she’s an excellent candidate to run against Farley, considering her success in a town where registered Republicans vastly outnumber Democrats. She said she’s used to being the underdog and believes she’s proven her mettle in the political arena.
“I’ve proven what I’m made out of and that I can make independent decisions based on the needs of the public,” she said.
Farley’s district now covers the second largest area in the state geographically and includes eastern Schenectady County, western Saratoga County, Hamilton County, Fulton County and the northern two-thirds of Herkimer County. The district’s boundaries were redrawn before the 2012 election, but Farley still cruised to victory.
Farley sees his challengers facing an even tougher uphill battle this year. He believes Republicans are poised to regain a clear majority in the Senate.
“I think it’s going to be a great year for Republicans,” he said.