By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
Friday marked some finality in the contest for the 46th state Senate District, as Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk narrowly beat Republican George Amedore Jr.
Tkaczyk made it through a three-way Democratic primary in September, a whisker-thin outcome in November, and two-months worth of court battles to squeak out an 18-vote lead over Amedore when the last ballots were unsealed and cast Friday.
Results still have to be certified, but she'll represent the new five-county district that spans from St. Johnsville to Kingston.
Tkaczyk did not respond to requests for an interview Friday, but in a prepared statement, said, "It is an incredible privilege to have been selected by the people of the 46th District to serve as their state senator."
Amedore, the former assemblyman, didn't respond to interview requests either. His prepared statement said, "I want to thank the constituents that I've had the honor to serve, as well as those who supported me in this campaign."
Amedore was originally certified the winner by 37 votes after a three-week supervised count of absentee and affidavit ballots in Montgomery County Supreme Court.
But with 444 ballots still unopened, mostly from Democrats in Ulster County, Tkaczyk took the contest to the state Supreme Court Appellate Division, which ordered another 99 ballots opened.
Amedore tried to quash that order in appealing to the state's highest court, but it heard neither his case nor Tkaczyk's, which sought to open even more ballots.
With all legal avenues exhausted, the only thing left to do was open envelopes. Most -- 90 -- were opened Friday morning at the Ulster County Board of Elections.
Tkaczyk gained 54 votes there, plenty to erase Amedore's lead. His vote was pared Thursday to 35 votes after eight validated ballots were opened at the Greene County Board of Elections.
A single ballot in Albany County was opened Friday afternoon, for Amedore. And an unopened ballot surfaced in this week in Montgomery County, where Amedore was favored on election night, but Republican Commissioner Terrance Smith said Friday afternoon he still hadn't received any direction what to do with it.
But even if it was cast for Amedore, it wouldn't have been enough to top Tkaczyk's slim lead.
For those who believed the seat was drawn for Amedore out of the 2010 Census redistricting, like Montgomery County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Bethany Schumann-McGhee, the outcome was a testament to Tkaczyk's campaign.
"People referred to it as George Amedore's seat," McGhee said. "We didn't think it was winnable by any Democrat, but CeCe worked hard and got her name and message out and challenged Amedore's record."
"No one believed our campaign had a chance in a district hand-carved by Republicans, and yet the power of the good ideas and a strong campaign proved itself," Tkaczyk's statement read.
Others might point to the last-minute, $500,000 pump in the arm of Tkaczyk's campaign, courtesy of a pair of downstate political action committees. The groups said they took to her calls for campaign finance reform, having been initially outraised by Amedore by a 5 to 1 ratio.
Montgomery County Republican Committee Chairman Joseph Emanuele III said he was disappointed to hear of Amedore's defeat. He contended the redistricting to Amedore's favor is "hearsay," and said it was unfortunate the district was drawn to include the heavily Democratic Ulster County.
"George really served us well as an assemblyman. I'm proud to say that of all the votes cast in Montgomery County for that race, we gave him 64 percent, and that tells me Montgomery County supported him. As chairman of the county Republican Committee, it makes me proud.
"I'm sure there are a lot of disappointed voters in Montgomery County right now," Emanuele continued. "It was nice to have someone close to us like George. Even though he wasn't from Montgomery County, he was like one of us."
Tkaczyk's election means for the first time in recent years, Montgomery County has Democratic representation in both houses of the state Legislature. Emanuele pointed how the redistricting process took Montgomery County out from underneath longtime Republican state Sen. Hugh T. Farley's representation, and Democrat Angelo Santabarbara was elected in November to represent the new 111th Assembly District.
"It's unfortunate the lines had to be moved, and in another 10 years, the lines will be redrawn again. This is a big setback for Montgomery County, but I guess it's time for rebuilding right now," Emanuele said.
McGhee saw it as the opposite.
"CeCe is so real and genuine, it was nice for the people to be able to vote for someone they could relate to," she said. "The Amedore ads were so tiring. They told us not to vote for the politicians in Albany, but hey, George, you were one of them, for a number of terms. You can't distance yourself from the body you've been elected to a number of times."