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Meet the new boss: Andrew Cuomo savors victory.

Easy Riders

Smooth sailing for local incumbents as Democrats claim the state’s top jobs

It wasn’t long after the crowd started to gather at Democratic headquarters in Albany on Tuesday night when Assemblyman Jack McEneny asked if his opponent, Deborah Busch, was ready to call him and concede. “If she doesn’t have my cell phone number, I’ll gladly get it to her,” he said with a halfway grin. His confidence defined the overall attitude in the hall, with three major races quickly coming to a close with the Democrats at the helm. Andrew Cuomo secured the governorship in a decicive victory over Carl Paladino, and Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer regained their U.S. Senate seats. It took a bit longer, but by night’s end it appeared that Democrats had also retained control of the attorney general’s office with Eric Schneiderman’s victory over Dan Donovan and the comptroller’s office with Tom DiNapoli’s defeat of Harry Wilson.

Victory came not shortly after for Assemblyman McEneny, state Sen. Neil Breslin, and Congressman Paul Tonko. Their eyes glued to the screen at the head of the room projecting the numbers, the crowd cheered at Breslin’s 52-percent-to-41-percent victory over Bob Domenici, and the room went electric over Tonko’s 58-percent-to-41-percent win over Ted Danz. Later in the evening, Assemblyman Bob Reilly stopped by the party after taking an extremely narrow victory over Republican Jennifer Whalen—so narrow the absentee ballots could still swing the race back in Whalen’s direction. Independent Assemblyman Timothy Gordon lost to Republican Steve McLaughlin by only a few hundred votes

Lumbering down from the podium after his victory speech, McEneny, still smiling, continued his celebration. “I’m looking to a fresh start and new solutions,” McEneny said. He said that he ran his campaign on his constituency, and feels that Busch’s campaign went negative and it caught up with her. “She’ll call any minute, so don’t make me official,” he said of his opponent’s concession call. “She’ll probably want to talk in detail.”

When told of McEneny’s comments, Busch just shook her head and noted that only a small percentage of votes had been counted.

“I’m tired,” said Busch, “It’s exhausting. I’ve worked so hard and people just tear up your signs. McEneny didn’t even campaign. He didn’t seem to care.”

Busch told a group of about 30 Tea Party supporters gathered at the Western Turnpike Country Club that she did not set out to be a Republican candidate, but began as an “early Tea Party patriot.”

According to Tom Cavanaugh, who is best known for waging a one-man hunger strike against Fox News pundit Sean Hannity in early September in protest of his uneven coverage of Republican gubernatorial hopefuls Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino (Lazio: three appearances; Paladino: none), Busch began as a speaker on Tea Party tours alongside Cavanaugh. “I would speak,” said Cavanaugh, “and people would get excited. But, every time Debbie spoke, people would ask, ‘What are you running for, what are you going to do?’”

Busch met with the Republican Party and was told that she could run for any position that she chose. However, she said, she was later informed that, to be a viable candidate, she would need to prove that she could gain another party line and/or be able to raise an adequate amount of money for her campaign. Rather than running for her chosen position in the state Senate, Busch says she was relegated to running for an Assembly seat against Jack McEneny. “I killed myself and I’m pissed,” Busch was overheard telling a supporter. “They’re not even showing numbers.”

Busch had still not made her concession call to McEneny when she left the venue around 11 PM. “I don’t know how it finished,” she said. “But it ended bad.”

Democrats did not fare as well outside of Albany County. Susan Savage lost her bid to unseat 34-year incumbent Sen. Hugh Farley. Savage managed to take only 34 percent of votes to Farley’s 66. Joanne Yepsen lost to incumbent Roy McDonald 49 to 61 percent. Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco warded off a challenge from B. K. Kermati, 64 to 36 percent.

Control of the New York State Senate is still up in the air, as a number of races remain too close to call. Recounts and legal action could mean it won’t be clear for weeks or months.

Andrew Cuomo will have to wait to see which legislators he has to work with or against in his quest to save the state from financial disaster by making serious cuts to services. He will need more than a few allies to survive impending battles with labor unions, special interests and, possibly, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

—W.T. Eckert, Ali Hibbs, David King

Gibson overpowers Murphy in the NY 20th

A Republican tidal wave swept the nation Tuesday and carried Democrat Scott Murphy out of office

In an election year marked by voter dissatisfaction, the people of New York’s 20th Congressional District ousted Democrat Scott Murphy and replaced him with Republican Chris Gibson. Gibson won 56 percent of the vote while Murphy received only 44 percent.

Although gracious in his concession speech at the Gideon-Putnam hotel, Murphy did say afterward that his campaign was assailed by 2.5 million dollars worth of attack ads, more than any other member of Congress. However, he called on his supporters to get behind Gibson and move forward. “Please stay involved, stay active, and continue to be part of the solution,” he said. He thanked his supporters and opened the bar to all for a much-needed drink. Murphy won his seat against Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco after Kirsten Gillibrand was named by Gov. David Paterson to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacant Senate seat.

Across town, a different party was under way at the Holiday Inn. Waves of Gibson supporters crammed into a large meeting room that, by the end of the night, was standing room only. When an aide stood up onstage at 11:15 and declared that Murphy had just conceded, the room erupted into applause. In a hotel room above them, Murphy and Gibson were having a conversation via telephone.

Gibson’s win was largely based on his platform of lowering taxes and an ad blitz that even former President Bill Clinton couldn’t overcome while stumping for Murphy on Monday. A Siena poll conducted in mid- September showed Murphy with a 17-point lead over Gibson. The latest, released on October 26th, showed Gibson with a nine-point lead.

“The Gibson campaign has certainly been more successful in creating a negative view of Murphy than the Murphy campaign has been in trying to create a negative image of Gibson,” said Seina pollster Steven Greenberg.

Many polling stations in Saratoga County reported a turnout of more than 50 percent with more than two hours left to vote. Mary Suda, chairwoman of the 22nd voting district, compared the turnout to that of the presidential election in 2008. “It was more than just a regular midterm election,” she said.

—Daniel Fitzsimmons

Green Thumb

Green Party gains ballot access with Howie Hawkins’ surprising success

Republicans stormed across the country picking up seats in Congress—ask most pundits, and they will tell you that the country is swinging back towards the right. But in New York, progressive Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins, who promised a “Green New Deal” and a job for every New Yorker, delivered his party more than the 50,000 votes it needed to secure ballot access for its candidates. And the party had its best showing in the state’s history.

“This is the best showing ever for statewide Green Party candidates,” said Peter LaVenia, co-chair of the Green Party of New York State, in a statement. “Voters are fed up with Democrats and Republicans taking their votes for granted, and are open to hearing ideas from a party not beholden to Wall Street and special interests. Howie Hawkins campaigned tirelessly to promote the idea of a Green New Deal, funded by progressive taxation on the wealthy, and using the stock transfer tax we already collect to fill the budget gap.

“Voters who heard the message understood that Howie’s platform made sense, and that it’s the austerity plans of Cuomo and Paladino that are nonsense,” said LaVenia. Hawkins, along with Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Warren Redlich, pushed hard to ensure their inclusion in debates, and they succeeded. Both candidates were able to present policy ideas of substance in front of a major television audience during the only gubernatorial debate. Apparently, voters liked what they heard from Hawkins.

—David King

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