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Incumbent Rep. Gibson Slides To Easy Victory In NY-19

Rep. Chris Gibson
..:: WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas ::..
Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-20) speaks to reporters in Saratoga County [October 24, 2011]

From a small country club in his Columbia County hometown of Kinderhook, Chris Gibson easily slid to victory over Democratic challenger Sean Eldridge, 65 percent to 35 percent. The win earns the incumbent a third term in Congress.

As John Mellencamp’s “Small Town” blared over speakers, those in attendance at his victory party lauded the retired Army colonel  as a hometown hero. Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett, a Republican, says Gibson’s work to bring funding to the district, and his attention to the district’s needs, was what won his support.

“We work hand-in hand with his office," Bartlett said. "And him being local, he knows our needs, he knows the community, and he’s there for us all the time. He’s a great congressman.”

But Gibson won handily with the support from Democrats in his district as well as Republicans. A Siena poll last week tagged him with an impressive 41 percent favorability among Democrats.

Former Ulster County Democratic Vice-Chair Michelle Tuckman was in Kinderhook supporting Gibson. She says Gibson’s voting record, which has broken ranks at times, impressed her. As did his attention to regional issues like Hudson Valley’s lyme disease epidemic – the worst in the country—and improving rural access to broadband.

“I think anybody that actually listened to Chris Gibson, or met Chris Gibson or has looked at any of his votes or any of his values, if they are willing to put away labels, I think they would be very impressed with the man as an individual and what he can do to unite people,” Tuckman said.

Among the issues Gibson broke ranks on—he voted in support of legislation to prohibit employer discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and he opposed sending American ground troops to fight the terrorist group the Islamic State.

Gibson gave his victory speech at about 11 p.m. to a crowd of cheering supporters, many of them family and friends. He outlined a six-point plan for his return to Congress, which included promises for tax reform, lowering energy costs, healthcare reform and climate change.

Eldridge called Gibson to concede at about 10:40 pm. In a statement, he said he wished Gibson the best, and was proud of his campaign despite the loss. The 28-year-old Kingston-based businessman told WAMC last week that he was not looking past the election until the returns came in.

“We’ve got to compete, we’ve got to invest, and we need a Congress that’s willing to get to work," Eldridge told WAMC News. "Not a Congress that’s making history by being the least productive body our country has ever seen.”

Eldridge said in a statement Tuesday that he would continue to support efforts to address issues like climate change and campaign finance reform, indicating his political aspirations may be far from over. He is married to Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and pumped $1.84 million of his own money into his first race for Congress. In addition, Eldridge's venture capital firm made investments in businesses across the district he moved to last year.

Still, it was a sound defeat for an ambitious candidate who attracted support from national Democrats but apparently struggled to connect in the district, where Gibson’s campaign labeled him a carpetbagger.

Gibson, meanwhile, has been a vocal advocate for Congressional term limits. After his victory Tuesday night, he affirmed his own decision to cap his time in Congress to eight years.

“I’ve said the most I’d serve was eight, and I’m a man of my word," Gibson said. "I believe in this, I think it’s important that we have a healthy rotation in office.”