Incumbents dominate in local races for state legislature

Enterprise file photo — Melissa Hale-Spencer

George Amedore, a Republican, speaking here at a Guilderland library debate last month, won a second term in the State Senate with 60 percent of the vote.

Local races for the state legislature went to the incumbents by large margins. Republican Senator George Amedore won easily in the 46th District as did Democratic assembly members Patricia Fahy in the 109th, and Angelo Santabarbara in the 111th. Republican Assemblyman Peter Lopez was unopposed in the 102nd District.

Amedore won a second term in the State Senate with 60 percent of the vote against Sara Niccoli, a Democrat making her first run for state office.

“I remain committed to being a strong voice for Upstate New York, and fighting to ensure communities throughout the 46th District get their fair share,” Amedore said in a statement Tuesday night.

“Since I took office two years ago,” he went on, “we’ve increased funding for our schools, our infrastructure needs are finally being addressed, and provided relief to ease the burden of property taxes, but there is a lot more work to be done.”

Amedore’s well-financed campaign stressed his role as “a successful businessman”: He said he employs 30 people — in a home-construction business, Amedore Homes, which he said made him aware of the “real world” and its problems, contrasting this to “political hacks.”

During a packed debate at the Guilderland library in October, Niccoli argued for limiting legislators’ outside income; she said conflicts of interest couldn’t be avoided if a legislator was paid for other work and she would dedicate herself to the job.

At the debate, Niccoli drew parallels between Amedore and Donald Trump. “He blocks the Reproductive Health Act…He denies that humans have anything to do with climate change,’ she said. She said both Republicans had this approach: “Invest in the wealthy and let the working class and middle class duke it out.”

Amedore told The Enterprise that he denounced Trump’s comments as “disgusting,” but was “supportive of the Republican nominee.”

Amedore said he had kept the campaign promises he made two years ago. “We all love New York; we just can’t afford New York,” he said. He stressed his work to combat the heroin epidemic and said the Gap Elimination Adjustment — which drew promised state funds from schools to cover state budget gaps — was eliminated last year. “I helped deliver more school aid,” he said.

Amedore, of Rotterdam, had served for six years in the State Assembly, leaving it to run in 2012 to represent the newly drawn 46th District, constructed by the Republican-dominated Senate. The district stretches 140 miles, encompassing parts of five counties — Albany, Greene, Montgomery, Schenectady, and Ulster. (The district includes all or part of these Albany County towns: Guilderland, New Scotland, Coeymans, and the Hilltowns of Berne, Knox, Rensselaerville, and Westerlo.)

In 2012, Amedore thought he’d eked out a win against Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk, a sheep farmer from Duanesburg, but, after Amedore was sworn in, a series of court challenges awarded the win to Tkaczyk, by 18 votes. The Senate majority had hung in the balance and both sides spent enormous funds on their campaigns. But, in the end, Tkaczyk’s victory did not lead to a Democratic majority as four Democrats broke away from the leadership, forming the Independent Democratic Caucus.

Two years ago, in a rematch, Amedore’s win over Tkaczyk, with 54 percent of the vote, along with several other key State Senate races going to Republicans gave the GOP the majority in the Senate. The 46th District is critical again this year as the Democrats hope to win the majority of seats.

Niccoli, who with her husband owns and runs a sheep farm in Montgomery County, is the supervisor of the town of Palatine. She had worked as director of the Labor-Religion Coalition.

According to unofficial results from the New York State Board of Elections, used throughout this story, Amedore got 62,447 votes on the Republican line, 9,739 Conservative votes, 1,333 Green Party votes, 4,114 Independence party votes, and 447 Reform Party Votes for 60.27 percent.

Niccoli got 39,798 votes on the Democratic line, 4,284 on the Working Families line, and 1,163 from the Women’s Equality Party line for a total of 45,245 or 34.93 percent of the vote.

In Albany County, Amedore got 59.24 percent of the vote and Niccoli got 40.73 percent.

Fahy wins in a landslide

In a rematch of a race two years ago, Patricia Fahy handily beat Republican Jesse Calhoun to represent the 109th Assembly District for a third two-year term.

Fahy leapt into local politics in 2012 when the reconfigured 109th District’s longtime representative, Democrat John McEneny, retired. With a grassroots campaign, she easily bested her five opponents in the Democratic primary, winning 37 percent of the vote in the Democrat-dominated district before easily winning her seat in the fall election against Guilderland Republican Ted Danz.

Two years later, Fahy bested Calhoun by getting 66 percent of the vote to represent Bethlehem, Guilderland, New Scotland, and the western part of Albany where she lives.

Fahy ran on her record, telling a gathering in McKownville in October, “I try to look at every issue through a couple of lenses — education and jobs.” She described herself as a first-generation American whose parents “came to this country for a better life,” where education was key.

 

Enterprise file photo — Melissa Hale-Spencer
Patricia Fahy, shown here campaigning in McKownville in October, won a third term by a landslide to represent the 109th District in the State Assembly. A Democrat, she will be in the majority.

 

Before moving to Albany 18 years ago, Fahy spent many years in Washington, D.C., working on Capitol Hill with labor committees and employment subcommittees, drafting legislation. In New York State, she had worked as an associate commissioner at the labor department and for the state legislature. She also served on the Albany’s school board.

“I have to not just react but push my agenda,” said Fahy. “I often carry about 50 bills a year; over 30 have been signed into law…I try to only do legislation that will pass or that sends a message.”

She described several bills of which she is most proud. One is to change the system of court-appointed attorneys for indigents, which has been paid for by counties, a large unfunded mandate. The new law requires the state to set up a system of direct state funding, which will relieve the financial burden for counties, Fahy said, and also make the system more fair.

Another is a bill to preserve open space, using tax relief to encourage smart growth.

She is also proud of bills that have helped distilleries and cideries, which have benefited both agriculture and small businesses, said Fahy. She said of craft beverages, “It has become a multi-billion-dollar industry in upstate New York.”

Fahy is also pleased with progress in state funding for public schools. Citing a local example, she said, “Up until this year, Guilderland was still laying off folks. This year, they hired staff.” Fahy went on, “In four years, there have been record-setting increases for elementary and secondary schools.” She called it “transformative,” and said the increases in state aid are “keeping pressure off taxpayers.”

Calhoun, a preschool teacher and musician, said, “You can count on a political outsider like me.” He opposed Common Core Standards and favored “taking government back from corporate interests.”

Fahy got 34,752 votes on the Democratic line, 2,671 on the Working Families line, and 1,851 on the Independence Party line for a total of 39,274 or 64.03 percent of the vote.

Calhoun got 14,333 Republican votes, 2,426 Conservative votes, and 427 Reform Party votes for a total of 17,186 votes or 28.02 percent.

In Albany County, Fahy got 78.87 percent of the vote and Calhoun got 20.96 percent.

Santabarbara bests Vroman

In another rematch from two years ago, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara won a third term representing the 111th District, which includes all of Montgomery County, the bulk of Schenectady county, and just the towns of Berne and Knox in Albany County.

After 15 years of working as a civil engineer, Santabarbara said during his campaign, he understands the importance of infrastructure, not just roads and bridges but also “the things you don’t see,” like underground water and sewer systems.

A Schenectady County native, Santabarbara, 44, lives in Rotterdam with his wife and two children.

 

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff
Angelo Santabarbara, a Democrat representing the 111th Assembly District, shown here at the 5K Sap Run in Berne.

 

Some of the accomplishments Santabarbara said he was proudest of include fighting for funds for public schools; improving infrastructure; and on work he has done on ethics reform.

Republican Peter Vroman ran on a platform of bringing back jobs. Vroman said during the campaign that he would bring a fresh perspective to a job he is well prepared for. “I’ve been a public servant for 32 years,” he said. At 55, he is a retired United States marshal. The father of six children, he lives in Canajoharie with his wife, Laurie.

Santabarbara is working on changes to the structure of the school-aid funding formula, he said, noting that rural schools are often underfunded. “They tend to be land rich but cash poor,” he said. “We’re trying to make property value part of the formula,” he said, and to take into account the number of students who get free lunches, an indication of poverty. “We want to look over a period of time rather than year to year.”

On the environment, Santabarbara said, “We invested record money in the NY-Sun program, making solar energy a reality. We’re slashing costs for government buildings and school districts.”

Santabarbara voted for the SAFE (Secure Ammunition and firearms Enforcement) Act. He says he supports background checks and protection for first responders. And he said he is “open to amendments to the SAFE Act.” He also said, “I am a gun owner. We must respect the right of gun owners.” Vroman opposed the SAFE Act.

Santabarbara served in the United States Army Reserve for eight years. He said he has sponsored a bill to limit outside income. He stopped his own work as an engineer, he said, giving this reason, “I work for the people I represent full-time.”

Santabarbara also opposes a pay raise. “You don’t join the Army for pay and you don’t do this for pay. This job is about service, not pay.”

Santabarbara got 24,168 votes on the Democratic line, 1,684 Independence Party votes, 1,910 Working Families Party votes, and 395 Women’s Equality Party votes for a total of 28,157 or 59.06 percent.

Vroman got 13,695 Republican votes, 2,897 Conservative votes, and 204 Reform Party votes, for a total of 16,796 or 35.23 percent.

In Albany County, Santabarbara got 53.80 percent of the vote and Vroman got 46.09 percent.

Lopez unopposed

Republican Peter Lopez, who has been an Assemblyman for 10 years, was elected, without opposition, to another two-year term.

After the 2010 federal census, the Assembly lines were redrawn and the Hilltowns were split and appended to two other districts. Formerly, the rural Helderberg towns had been grouped together with suburban Guilderland and New Scotland and part of the city of Albany — all in Albany County.

With the current configuration, Lopez, in the 102nd District, represents three Albany County towns — Rensselaerville, Westerlo, and Coeymans — as well as all of Schoharie and Greene counties and parts of Otsego and Delaware counties.

Lopez lives in Schoharie with his wife, Bridget. He holds a bachelor’s degree in public affairs with a minor in environmental studies, and a master’s degree in public administration.

He received 31,774 votes on the Republican line, 5,039 Conservative votes, 4,372 Independence Party votes, and 424 Reform Party votes for a total of 41,609 votes.


Updated on Nov. 9, 2016: Voter percentages from Albany County were added.

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