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Upstate NY On The Threshold Of Election Day

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Composite Image by Dave Lucas (WAMC)
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Election 2014 is nearly at hand. The off-year contest could shape the political landscape across upstate New York.

Republicans have solid leads in three key races that were initially expected to be much closer: pollsters have former Republican Assemblyman George Amedore ahead of incumbent Democratic Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk in their 46th state Senate district rematch. They have Republican Congressman Chris Gibson ahead of Democratic challenger Sean Eldridge in the 19th district, and Republican Elise Stefanik is now the front runner in a three-way race to replace retiring Congressman Bill Owens in the 21st district.

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Credit WAMC/Pat Bradley
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Republican Elise Stefanik.

All in all, in these final hours of election season, candidates are busy giving speeches, attending rallies, shaking hands, making phone calls, stepping up advertising and reminding the media they're available for interviews.

New York State Senator Neil Breslin, an Albany Democrat, is running unopposed this election cycle for his 44th district seat.     "In the National level I think Democrats have a real struggle, with the sixth year of an incumbent president and his numbers seem bad..."

It’s taken for granted that New York Democrats will hold on to the state's top spot: Andrew Cuomo is rallying across the state before voters will be presented with a line of candidates for governor including Republican Rob Astorino, Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins, and Libertarian Michael McDermott.  Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is a safe distance in front of Republican Bob Antonacci. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was polling ahead of Republican John Cahill. In the Capital District, Congressman Paul Tonko has led Republican challenger Jim Fisher in the 20th district.

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Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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Congressman Paul Tonko

But in what has become a fall refrain from candidates of all stripes, the only poll that matters comes Tuesday. Regardless of polls and front-runners, Senator Breslin believes voter turnout is crucial.     "We gotta make sure that we try to do what's very difficult to do in a non-presidential year:  get young people, minorities and the Democratic state out to vote. So we've been concentrating on a get out the vote effort."

Underscoring the effort to encourage voters and make sure everyone entitled to cast a ballot is able to, the New York Immigration Coalition has launched a poll-monitoring initiative in Westchester, New York City and on Long Island. Murad Awawdeh  is the group's civic engagement coordinator. He says new voters' rights were trampled  during the September primaries.   "There were a number of instances where voters would get to their poll sites and be told they were not on the roster and that's not where they were supposed to be voting. They wouldn't be given any additional information on where they should be going, due to some last minute poll site changes. And then there were other folks who were going out to vote, really excited, and then when they got to the poll site, they weren't offered any translation information or assistance."

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Credit WAMC composite photo by Aubrey Mulvey
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New York State Senator Neil Breslin

Awawdeh notes any voter violations observed during polling place monitoring will quickly be reported to the Board of Elections. According to Senator Breslin, New York is fraught with immigration problems that should be considered in the voting booth.   "In my opinion, the Republican Party has been insensitive to the issue of cleaning up 12, 13, 14 million undocumented people in our country and giving them an opportunity for citizenship. Minimum wage is another issue that carries from the federal to the state. Women's issues continue to cover from the federal to the state."

Albany City Conservative Party Chairman Joe Sullivan has run for political office several times. This year, he has mounted a modest write-in campaign for Breslin's seat. He believes the 2014 election is critical to Americans who embrace life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.   "Voters have to choose very carefully, they have to do their homework and make sure they cast informed votes, and instead of voting party lines, put America and New York and Albany first."

Sen. Hugh Farley
Sen. Hugh Farley
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Some other interesting races to watch: longtime Senator Hugh Farley defending his 49th district GOP seat against Democrat Madelyn Thorne...  the 43rd district contest pitting Democrat Brian Howard against incumbent Republican Kathy Marchione... and Democrat Pat Fahy's 109th Assembly seat race against Republican former Albany mayoral candidate Jesse Calhoun.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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