Madelyn Thorne and Patti Southworth are both confident they have a clear shot at winning the state Senate seat occupied by Hugh Farley, but one will need to emerge victorious in the Democratic primary next week before getting a crack at the longtime incumbent Republican.
Thorne, 60, who has been endorsed by four of five county Democratic committees in the 49th District, believes she stands the best chance at unseating Farley partly because of the broad support she’s generated during her primary campaign. Among other endorsements, Thorne has received support from 1199SEIU, the New York State Nurses Association, the National Organization of Women and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
“I have people thanking me for running, thanking me for giving them a good choice — the right choice — for the 49th District,” said Thorne, who also challenged Farley in 2012.
But Southworth, 54, said she’s a better pick to face the 82-year-old Farley because of how well she has fared in the past in an area that has often voted Republican. The former Ballston town supervisor won three terms in a town heavily weighted toward the GOP, much like the 49th District.
“I’m not business as usual,” she said. “I’m not part of the machine, and I’m not part of the corruption in Albany. I represent disenchanted voters, and I am their voice.”
The district covers the second largest area in the state geographically and includes eastern Schenectady County, western Saratoga County, all of Hamilton and Fulton counties and the northern two-thirds of Herkimer County. The district’s boundaries were redrawn before the 2012 election — the one that pitted Farley against Thorne — but Farley still cruised to victory.
The district has about 16,000 more enrolled Republicans than Democrats, according to the state Board of Elections. Around 11,000 voters, however, are also enrolled in the Independence Party, and 44,000 aren’t enrolled in any party.
The Independence voters could help Southworth, who was once enrolled in that party. She was originally a Democrat and returned to the Democratic Party before announcing her run for the Senate seat last winter.
Thorne, who also has the Working Families Party endorsement, has amassed a sizable war chest since joining the race. She now has roughly $54,000 on hand, according to recent campaign filings.
Thorne has gotten large contributions from political action committees registered to SEIU, the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters and Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 773. In addition, she received a $6,500 donation from No Bad Apples — a so-called super PAC founded by state Sen. Liz Krueger that was influential in helping fellow Democratic state Sen. Cecelia Tkaczyk win in her bid against Republican assemblyman George Amedore in 2012.
“She’s another Democrat and a woman who would like to see others join the Senate and work on good solutions in Albany,” Thorne said of the No Bad Apples funding.
In contrast, Southworth’s campaign has only about $2,200 at its disposal, according to the most recent filings. Southworth’s campaign has been funded almost exclusively by local donors from around Saratoga County, and her largest individual contributor is her husband, Patrick.
Southworth acknowledged she didn’t have the funding being afforded to Thorne, but said the money she’s raised comes locally and without any strings attached from downstate.
“My money was raised local. My money was grass-roots,” she said. “I don’t take money from people whose platform I don’t support.”
Thorne’s first challenge to Farley fell about 23,000 votes short, but was hampered in part by the late start she got in her run for the seat two years ago. This time, her campaign got rolling much earlier — something she believes will give her an edge in both the primary and general elections.
Thorne said she stands for responsive government. She believes winning the primary will give voters the best opportunity for bringing better representation to the district.
“We cannot keep on this road of disinterested representation,” she said.
Southworth said she wouldn’t have embarked on a primary challenge if she didn’t believe she had a good chance of winning both the primary and general elections. She said the support she’s received from a broad cross-section of voters would help in a contest against Farley.