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Musical Chairs

Democrat Cecelia Tkaczyk finally takes her seat in the New York State Senate after a protracted recount in her contested district

by Erin Pihlaja on January 24, 2013

 

In her rightful place: After fighting for the 46th Senate seat for over two months, Tkaczyk was declared the victor. Photo by Erin Pihlaja.

A thunderous round of applause broke out as Cecilia Tkaczyk stepped onto the Senate chamber floor yesterday afternoon (Jan. 23). She waved to the cheering people in the balcony and nodded at her colleagues, who stood and clapped next to their assigned leather chairs. After she made her way to the center of the room, she raised her hand and took an oath. More than two months after election day, she was finally sworn in as the official elected representative of the 46th State Senate District.

The district, redrawn last year by state Republicans, consists of parts of Ulster, Albany, and Schenectady counties as well as all of Greene and Montgomery counties. At the time, Democrats tried to block the seat, but failed. It was widely believed that the district would go to a Republican candidate. And it did, for a short time.

Tkaczyk’s opponent, former Republican Assemblyman George Amedore, declared victory on election night even though Tkaczyk finished with a narrow lead. As the thousands of absentee ballots were counted, Amedore closed the gap and pulled ahead by a handful of votes.

The case was brought to court, and acting Montgomery County Supreme Court Justice Guy Tomlinson invalidated around 450 of the remaining 887 ballots, which left Amedore with a 35-vote lead. In late December, Tomlinson called the race for Amedore. Tkaczyk’s camp appealed, and more than 90 ballots were opened and counted. On Friday (Jan. 18) the mother, wife, farmer, and former school board vice president was declared the winner by 19 votes in a race where an estimated 126,000 votes were cast. Times Union reporter Jimmy Vielkind dubbed Amedore the “shortest-tenured state senator in modern Senate history.”

In a statement following the decision, Tkaczyk said, “No one believed our campaign had a chance in a district hand-carved by Republicans, and yet the power of good ideas and a strong campaign proved itself.”

On Wednesday, as Tkaczyk made her way to the Senate seat that she fought so hard to claim, she smiled. As she sat down in the dignified red leather armchair, which still lacks the brass plate that will bear her name and district, she seemed satisfied. “It’s a great spot,” she said.