by Michael Gormley, Associated Press
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP)—New challenges to more than 500 paper ballots out of more than 120,000 votes cast in a New York state Senate race could throw control of the chamber into court, forcing further delay in determining who will win the seat and which party will be the Senate’s majority.
The Senate’s Republican majority made most of those challenges Tuesday in the 46th District race in the Hudson Valley. If the tally of the remaining 2,000 or so ballots yields a margin smaller than the number challenged, the race will be determined by a state judge who would rule on each vote. An appearance is set for Thursday in state Supreme Court in Montgomery County.
Republican George Amedore leads Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk in that race as elections officials count the remaining absentee and paper ballots in Ulster County.
In another count in a tight race, Democrat Terry Gipson continued to hold a steady lead over Republican Sen. Stephen Saland in the 41st District as the last votes are counted.
Saland cast the critical vote to legalize gay marriage a year ago, which infuriated some of his base and prompted a primary and general election challenge by a Conservative candidate who drew thousands of votes from Saland, a 20-year veteran of the Senate.
Gipson led on election night by 1,603 votes from among 113,321 cast, but more than 7,000 absentee votes were to be counted.
The votes being counted in both races are paper ballots. That includes absentee ballots submitted by voters away from their home voting district on Election Day or provisional ballots cast after some question about the voter’s residency or other issue came up at the polls.
On election night, Tkaczyk had 50.1 percent of the vote, or a 139-vote edge out of 116,489 cast. But there were also 9,031 absentee ballots to be counted.
Amedore, a veteran assemblyman from Schenectady County, surpassed Tkaczyk in the absentee vote counts in Albany, Greene, Montgomery and Schenectady counties. Those are more strongly Republican areas and the Senate’s GOP majority has a well-established system of getting absentee ballots to its party members.
The district was created by the Republican majority this year as a 63rd seat in the Senate and was a lynchpin to its effort to retain its 33-29 majority in the chamber, the last GOP bastion of power in the Democrat-dominated state. Democrats have said the new district snaking in part through suburban and rural areas was drawn to favor Amedore, who has strong support in Schenectady and Montgomery counties, although Tkaczyk is also from rural Schenectady County.
Tkaczyk in her first major political campaign was making a comeback in Ulster County, a county trending Democratic and where she was endorsed by the Kingston Daily Freeman.
Republicans held a 33-29 majority going into the election. It takes 32 votes to pass a measure in the Senate, which has 63 seats, including the new 46th District.
If the current leads hold and the Republican Amedore and the Democrat Gipson win their races, the Senate will have a Republican majority, thanks to a Queens Democrat, Sen.-elect Simcha Felder, who has said he will sit with the Republicans.
If Tkaczyk and Gipson, the Democrats, win, giving their party a 32-31 majority, Republicans could still rule a coalition majority with the four breakaway members of the Independent Democratic Conference.
Republicans’ legislative goals include jobs programs and tax breaks for businesses, while Democrats seek a more progressive agenda including raising the minimum wage and public financing of campaigns.