Final 2012 race decided… for the Democrats!

In the end, the GOP’s hundreds of frivolous ballot challenges merely delayed the inevitable:  Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk has won New York state Senate District 46 by 19 votes – settling the final unresolved election of 2012 and reaffirming the fact that Democrats now hold three more seats than Republicans in the New York Senate.

This was a true roller-coaster of a race, as well as an Essential one.

It almost didn’t happen, thanks to state constitutional ambiguity over whether then-majority Republicans had the authority to add a 63rd seat to the New York Senate.  Most analysts viewed District 46 as the “new” seat, a district custom-drawn for GOP Assemblyman George Amedore and the lynchpin of Republican efforts to gerrymander their way to a sustained majority in the chamber.  Once the constitutional question was resolved, few gave Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk much of a chance.

We did.  By the end of the campaign, it seemed obvious that this race could hold the key to ending Republicans’ traditional hegemony in the New York Senate, and we were right.  While national Republicans wasted millions of dollars attacking two popular Democrats in Rochester and Westchester County (both won relatively comfortably), Democrats successfully converted two under-the-radar pickup opportunities that ultimately went to recounts:  Democrat Terry Gipson’s narrow victory in District 41, and Senator-Elect Tkaczyk’s race.

On Election Night, it appeared that Tkaczyk had won by 139 votes.  But that margin was reversed when the re-canvassing of Election Day voting machines revealed an incorrect report; suddenly Amedore was up by 54 votes.

Then the counting of absentee and provisional ballots began, and Tkaczyk quickly re-took the lead when Democratic-leaning Albany County counted its paper ballots first.  Then Republican-leaning counties counted, putting Amedore ahead by 920 votes – a margin many thought would be impossible to overcome.  But then Democratic-leaning Ulster County began its count, and it quickly became apparent that Tkaczyk would indeed overcome that margin.

Throughout this process, Republicans steadily increased the frequency of their ballot challenges, many of them clearly frivolous, and they were able to maintain a technical GOP “lead” of 110 votesbut nearly a thousand mostly Republican-challenged ballots remained to be adjudicated in court.

Lower courts allowed many of these ballots to be counted, dropping Amedore’s lead to just 39 votes, but Tkaczyk appealed the disqualification of about 300 ballots, many of which were excluded through no fault of the voters.  Appeals courts agreed to count 99 additional ballots, which were tallied this morning.

With all valid ballots counted (and the Republicans’ frivolous challenges out of the way), Tkaczyk has now won by 19 votes

Congratulations to Senator-Elect Tkaczyk and the New York Senate Democrats on an exceptional 2012 campaign.

As for state Senate Republicans, for whom this constitutionally-ambiguous 63rd seat was supposed to save their majority:  You were too cute by half – you’d have been better off playing by the rules.

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