By Anne Hayden
Three weeks after election night, it is still not clear who will be representing the newly-created 46th Senate District — Republican George Amedore or Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk.
The senate majority hangs in the balance and the final vote count will determine party control. The Republicans hold 31 seats to the Democrats’ 30 in the Senate, but if Tkaczyk wins, and another undecided race goes to the Democrats, and her party collaborates with the four members of the Independent Democratic Conference, the Democrats would take the majority.
Both candidates claimed victory on Nov. 8, but, due to a close margin in the results, a large number of absentee ballots, a show-cause order filed by Amedore’s campaign, and objections to ballots from both sides, an official winner has yet to be declared.
The deadline for submitting absentee ballots was pushed back because of Hurricane Sandy.
The past several weeks have been spent counting ballots in the five counties the district encompasses — Albany, Schenectady, Montgomery, Greene, and Ulster. Tkaczyk started off with the lead, but Amedore was ahead by 920 votes after ballot-counting ended in Montgomery County on Saturday.
When the ballots were counted in Ulster County — Tkaczyk’s home county — on Tuesday, Amedore’s lead dropped to 110.
The candidates will appear in front of Montgomery County Supreme Court Justice Guy Tomlinson on Thursday and Friday to review all ballots that have been challenged by both sides.
The managers of both campaigns told The Enterprise they felt sure that their candidates would emerge the victor after the court sessions.
“We’re obviously confident,” said Amedore’s manager, Kris Thompson.
Amedore represented that 105th District in the Democrat-dominated State Assembly and ran for a Senate district configured by Republicans.
“It is increasingly clear that Cecilia Tkaczyk will be the next senator of the 46th Senate District,” said Gary Ginsburg, spokesman for her campaign.
Tkaczyk, who described herself during her campaign as a mother, farmer, and school board leader, had worked as a legislative aid. Half a million dollars was spent on her campaign.
More than 800 objections were filed, though the Republicans filed more than the Democrats — 660 and 210, respectively.
Ginsburg said that most of the objections from Amedore’s campaign are “frivolous,” while Thompson said they were all “procedural,” and that Tkaczyk’s campaign had opposed ballots in areas where Amedore did well, and Amedore’s campaign, likewise, opposed ballots in areas where Tkaczyk did well.
Ginsburg said that Amedore’s campaign had filed 460 objections in Ulster County alone, and Tkaczyk’s had filed 60. The Republicans objected to a full 25-percent of all votes in Woodstock, a town in Ulster County.
Some of the objections are procedural, said Ginsburg, related to things like valid signatures and confirming that voters who submitted absentee ballots actually had addresses in the proper county, but for others, he said, “The frivolity is disturbing.”
He described one objection to an absentee ballot from a woman who is disabled, blind in one eye, and unable to drive. Amedore’s campaign, said Ginsburg, did not feel that the woman should have been allowed to file an absentee ballot, because she lives within the county she was voting in.
“She couldn’t even drive to vote,” said Ginsburg. “To disenfranchise so many voters doesn’t make sense; the process is supposed to encourage people to vote, and I don’t know if they forgot that or are ignoring that.”
Regardless, Ginsburg said, with such a slim lead for Amedore, and with so many objections filed by Amedore’s campaign — many of which he feels will be dismissed — Tkaczyk will be the next senator.
With that in mind, he said, Tkaczyk has continued to go out into the community and talk to the constituents, to make sure they know their voice will be heard if she takes her seat in just over a month.
“Cece knew, going in, that running in a district drawn by Republicans, with a hand-picked candidate, would be tough,” Ginsburg said. “She knew it would be a long campaign.”
Amedore, meanwhile, according to Thompson, has been focusing on work.
“He’s a small businessman,” Thompson said. “He’s busy doing what every other American is doing — working.”
During his campaign, Amedore proudly described himself as a “citizen legislator,” while working as a developer employing 26 people.
“Our founding fathers were citizen legislators,” he said, stating it’s an advantage to be a small-business owner. “It feel the pain and know the concerns of the people,” he said.
As for how Amedore feels about the drawn-out nature of the election, Thompson said, “It’s just the process; what more is there to say?”