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We Have Our Winners—Well, Almost

A very busy day at the primary polls produced a few clear winners in the state Senate and Assembly races—and one outcome that is still too close to call

by Erin Pihlaja on September 20, 2012

Primary day came and went, and while some of the outcomes were expected, there were a few surprises and one high-profile race still without a decided victor.

The 109th Assembly District was, as predicted, a very close race—at least for the five Democratic candidates left in the mix after Pat Fahy swept the seat with a 19-point lead over her closest challenger, Albany Councilman Frank Commisso Jr. It was County Legislator Chris Higgins who kept a neck-and-neck pace with Commisso, followed closely by Assistant Attorney General William McCarthy. Former Albany County Executive Jim Coyne pulled in 8.5 percent of the vote, while political newcomer Margarita Perez, a staffer for state Sen. Jose Peralta, finished with 3.2 percent.

“It’s a big relief, but now it’s on to the next phase,” said Fahy. While she credits her win largely in part to a “grass-roots campaign,” where she saw support flooding in at the community level, Fahy was heavily endorsed in the Capital Region. Despite the seemingly overwhelming victory, the fight between Commisso and Fahy was a bitter one, with Commisso bringing Fahy’s record as the former president of the Albany City School Board under heavy fire.

“I felt it was the right thing to do, to invest in our schools,” said Fahy. “By investing we would stabilize the tax base and halt what some call the ‘bright flight’ or the ‘middle-class flight’ out of [the school district].” Fahy’s plan to reinvigorate the Albany city school system had focused on an overhaul of the district’s aging school buildings.

“We had to raise taxes to float that bond,” she said. “I felt that was taken out of context [in this race] and that I made a lot of tough decisions during a tough time. In the end, I think people saw that I had the best interest of the city and the families of the city.”

Fahy will face Republican Ted Danz, and possibly Joseph Sullivan on the Conservative Party line, in the November election. While the Assembly seat is largely considered a Democratic one, Danz may also have the support of the Independence Party, and Fahy is gearing up for another battle.

“I’ve been warned [he] can be very negative,” she said. “I have to be prepared for that. I’ll work my hardest to run a positive campaign, but I’m not a doormat. I’ll try to be as positive as I can and talk about the issues.”

Cohoes Mayor John McDonald edged out Albany Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin for the 108th Assembly District seat, left vacant after the retirement of Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari. “It was a tough race,” said McDonald. “Carolyn was a credible opponent.”

McDonald was pleased with the tone of both his and McLaughlin’s campaigns, and said that he felt that it was a positive race that “focused on the issues.” He credits his win to his reputation in the community and his ability to work with supporters and adversaries alike. “I have 13 years of working in the district and it made the difference,” he said. He has now gained the support of Canestrari and other officials who stayed impartial through the race. “I fully understand why people support certain individuals,” McDonald said. “I don’t take it personally at all.”

He is gearing up for the election. “I’m still in full campaign mode. Carolyn is still on the ballet for the Working Families campaign,” he said.

In the quest for the 44th District Senate seat, Sen. Neil Breslin fended off Shawn Morse, Albany County legislative chairman. Breslin will face Peter LaVenia, co-chair of the state’s Green Party. “My plan is to continue working for the people of my current Senate district and continuing to get to know the people in the new part of the district,” said Breslin. “I will continue discussing issues with people prior to Election Day in November.  I look forward to winning a Democratic majority in the state Senate and advancing the issues I discussed in the campaign like increasing the minimum wage, expansion of health care and increasing education funding.”

It will come down to around 1,000 absentee ballots in the 43rd Senate district to determine if incumbent Sen. Roy McDonald kept challenger Kathy Marchione, Saratoga county clerk, at bay in the Republican primary.

McDonald drew the ire of members of his own party when he voted for the Marriage Equality Act last year, and Marchione fought an aggressive race against him and finished 122 votes ahead. The counting of the ballots is scheduled to begin today (Thursday, Sept. 20), but even the final count may not end this battle. If McDonald secures the Republican line, Marchione may continue on the Conservative Party line. If Marchione takes the win, McDonald could stay on as the candidate for the Independence Party, but whether or not he will is uncertain.