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An Early Night

Primary night leaves no one guessing about who won the major races

Tracy Brooks’ campaign announced a day before the primary this week that they would go to court to request that voting machines be impounded after all votes were cast, in anticipation of an extremely close race for the 21st Congressional District seat. Their request was granted. But by 10 o’clock on primary night, it became fairly clear that the race was not nearly as close as the Brooks campaign had hoped. Former Assemblyman Paul Tonko had kept the race close in Albany and took votes home in a landslide in his former assembly district. By 10:40 PM, Brooks conceded the race.

“It was a combination of my past experience and a record of change that I had produced that allowed me to speak forcibly about change I want as a congressional representative,” Tonko said at his victory speech at the Washington Tavern.

Poll watchers at Townsend Park Apartments in Albany reported a fairly steady turnout for primary night. Outside, Phil Steck supporters, wrapped in his signs and stickers, marched up and down rain-soaked sidewalks. A lone Tonko supporter stood on the other side of the street, waving at cars.

Tonko took home around 14,000 votes and Brooks followed with more than 11,000. Albany County Legislator Phil Steck took home more than 6,000—while ex-Kirsten Gillibrand staffer Darius Shahinfar earned nearly 4,000 votes. Joseph Sullivan, former Albany city Republican Party chair who switched to Democrat, took home around 2 percent of the vote. Steck and Shanifar conceded the race to Tonko and though Steck is still on the Independence Party line, he has stated that he will not actively campaign.

Brooks had a blast of last-minute exposure—including a number of television spots and an endorsement from the Times Union—but Tonko’s name recognition and good will in his district proved too much to overcome.

Tonko had been the assumed favorite in the contest; however, his late entry into the race made some pundits think earlier entrants like Steck and Brooks, who ran tight campaigns, might have been able to overtake him.

This is the second time Brooks, a former Republican and Clinton staffer, has lost a race. She was unsuccessful in a bid to unseat Assemblyman Pat Casale in 2002.

Meanwhile, Republican Schenectady County Legislator Jim Buhrmaster won an overwhelming victory against challenger Steven Vasquez. Buhrmaster released a statement saying he looked forward to doing battle with Tonko.

In the primary for the 46th District of the New York Senate, incumbent Neil Breslin won in a landslide against his two challengers, David Weiss and Charlie Voelker. Breslin garnered around 15,000 votes, and his opponents took more than 2,000 a piece. It was the first primary Breslin has ever faced for the seat. Voelker has announced he will continue to campaign on the Conservative line.

In Rensselaer County, Mike Russo defeated Brian Premo to win the Democratic Party line in the race for the 43rd District Senate seat vacated by former Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. On the Republican side, Roy McDonald defeated Raymond Seney.

In Saratoga County, all three McTygue brothers—Thomas, Peter and William—were defeated for their seats on the city Democratic Committee by Democrats for Change candidates. Last year, Republican Skip Scirocco defeated Thomas McTygue for the commissioner of Public Works position that McTygue had held for more than 30 years. Democrats for Change candidates declared an end to decades of “McTygue dominance.”

—David King

What a Week

Oh, the Humanity!

In the face of the current state of the American health care system and the ongoing health care debate, Americans may have a hard time empathizing with the French, who are facing cuts to their national healthcare system. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has cut funding for half of the country’s 165 physiotherapists at the National Baths of Aix-Les-Bains. As a result, the physiotherapists have gone on strike. Sarkozy has begun to take on France’s state sector industries, which have regularly scared away attempted cuts by previous French leaders. In a recent speech, Sarkozy recently pointed out that there are 721 French diplomats in the former colony of Senegal, which only has a population of 12 million—while there are only 271 diplomats in India. “How is that normal?” Sarkozy asked.

Oil Zombies

Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had a run in with protestors who were holding McCain signs and chanting “Drill here! Drill Now!” during the Democratic National Convention this week. The speaker paused and then responded, “Right here?” “Can we drill your brains?” Pelosi went on to call the protestors “the handmaidens of big oil” and the “two-cents-in-ten-years crowd,” referring to the amount she thinks off-shore drilling will reduce the price of gas.

The Day the Swinging Died

Capitol Region pundits and reporters lost one of their favorite subjects this week. A Slingerlands psychiatrist put in the winning bid to buy the Union Street Bed and Breakfast in Schenectady, effectively ending the run of the swinger hangout that features a sex dungeon in its basement. Owner Bob Alexson has said that he was not driven out but has chosen to move on. Alexson clearly did not consider what area columnists and anchors would be left to write about with his sexy B&B out of the picture.

For the Dogs

A Seattle woman who registered her dog to vote—a protest against the lax oversight of voter registration—had fraud charges dropped against her this week. The judge dismissed the case, sighting that the woman had already paid over $200 in court costs. The woman did not try to hide the fact that her dog was registered, and she pointed out that the dog never actually voted.

Bad news: Darius Shanifar waits for primary results.

Photo: Alicia Solsman

Bad Judge

Saratoga County Family Court candidate accuses incumbent Courtenay Hall of stealing his signs and slogan

It’s not uncommon to see slogans created by one candidate usurped by another. One prominent examplei can be seen in the presidential race: Rather than attack Barack Obama’s push for “change,” John McCain has tried desperately to make the term his own. But Saratoga County Family Court candidate Kurt Mausert didn’t expect to have his slogan, “A Family Man for Family Court,” co-opted by his opponent in a race he had been told by many was insignificant in a busy political year.

Mausert said he is used to hearing that no one is paying attention, that no one cares. But Mausert, who copyrighted his slogan along with the rest of his campaign material, said he cares deeply about the race and about having his intellectual property respected.

In a statement, Rich Moran, Mausert’s campaign advisor, wrote, “Courtenay Hall, in his 32 years of legal experience, apparently failed to learn the lesson the rest of us learned in childhood: Don’t take things that don’t belong to you.”

Hall declined to comment and referred Metroland to his campaign chair, Jefferey Bagnoli, who did not return calls for comment.

However, Bagnoli told the Daily Gazette, “It’s like someone running for Congress saying it’s time for a change. It’s a common slogan,” Bagnoli said. “Kurt is really out-of-bounds with this kind of campaign. I’ve never seen a judicial candidate use such negative tactics, especially someone running for family court.” Bagnoli also said that Hall had used a similar slogan during his first run for the position years ago.

Mausert said that running as a Democrat in Saratoga County is a lot like running as a Republican in Albany County—the deck is stacked against you. Mausert said that he feels his opponent has been laying low, trying not to make any waves, to quietly be reelected.

Mausert has been making noise and pushing his platforms all around Saratoga County. He can be found during the mornings at the Saratoga Springs Farmers Market, handing out literature and talking to passerby about how he feels that Saratoga County—

one of the wealthiest counties in the state—should spend more money on mediation and amenities in the courthouse to keep victims of abuse comfortable and away from their abusers.

Mausert worries that Hall will confuse voters now that Hall is showing up campaigning late in the game with the same slogan.

And for a race with such little supposed stature, Mausert’s bumper stickers and signs have become common sight in Saratoga County. However, Mausert alleges that his signs are beginning to disappear in a mysterious fashion. He said that more than 45 signs have gone missing from Clifton Park in only three days’ time.

In May, there was controversy when the Saratoga County Independence Party endorsed Hall. Mausert claimed that the party had promised to invite him to speak at the meeting where the endorsement was decided, and then did not follow through. Mausert claimed the party chair was either “confused or corrupt.”

Hall is currently ahead in the race for the Independence line with an unofficial tally of 149 votes to Mausert’s 126. Mausert, however, said that he expects absentee ballots to tighten up the race.

“The primary race isn’t over,” said Mausert. “This race is amazingly close. Here is the context I view this in: He has been active in politics for years, he was the endorsed candidate and the incumbent, and the race is still close enough for me to whack him on the backside. This is an amazing result.”

In the end, Mausert said it may seem like a silly issue, but more is at stake than just a slogan. “Imitation is flattery, but it is also confusing to the voters. If our slogan made an impression and voters remember and like it, they may not remember who is using it. Confused voters means loss of votes.”

—David King

Loose Ends

-no loose ends this week-

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