Democrat Mary Pat Donnelly has declared victory over Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove in Tuesday’s election.
Donnelly, who resigned as an East Greenbush town justice to run for DA, took 55 percent of the vote, according to the county board of elections. She spoke at an election night party in Troy.
“I’m feeling pretty excited and I’m feeling pretty heavy with responsibility,” Donnelly said Tuesday night. “It’s a big task and I look forward to getting to work.”
Abelove, who received 45 percent of the vote, has been in office since 2015. The DA left the Rensselaer County Republican gathering in South Troy Tuesday night without issuing a statement as results were coming in. He spoke with WAMC News at about 10 p.m., an hour after polls closed. The first-term Republican continued to tout his experience over Donnelly’s.
“It’s a very stark difference,” Abelove said. “She [Donnelly] doesn’t have any experience prosecuting cases and I’ve got almost 24 years of experience so that’s really been what I’ve tried to focus on for the voters to ensure that they understand that I am an experienced prosecutor and I’ve been running the office. And she, as far as I can tell, has no managerial or supervisory experience and has never prosecuted a single case in the state of New York.”
For her part, Donnelly has highlighted 20 years of law experience and her time on the East Greenbush Town Court, which she joined in 2012.
“I’ve been a judge so I’ve spent my entire career in the courtroom,” Donnelly said. “And I know very well what goes into a prosecution. My opponent is an experienced prosecutor and with him we found many problems with the office so it’s not unusual for someone like myself to offer themselves up to run this type of an office so I don’t really have any concerns about that and nobody else should either.”
Abelove has faced criticism for his handling of a fatal 2016 Troy police shooting of a civilian. Criminal charges brought by then-state attorney general, Democrat Eric Schneiderman, against Abelove were later dismissed, but could be reintroduced. During the campaign, Donnelly criticized Abelove for what she characterized as high turnover in the DA’s office.
“As soon as it is appropriate I think the first thing I would do would be to reach out to the existing staff and figure out where they want to fit into my office going forward,” Donnelly said. “I understand there is a few empty seats in the attorney’s rooms and I would fill those. I’ve had a lot of experienced attorneys reach out who are interested in working. So I would obviously be putting the staff together. And then the second thing I need to do is reach out to law enforcement. Speak to each of them, get their perspective on how things are going and what needs to be changed. I think I’m pretty good at listening and understanding different perspectives on things. And then put that together with respect to any changes that I’m going to be making. And then just get to work. Get into the filing cabinets, find the dead cases, get them dismissed and salvageable cases will be worked on.”
“I met her, I liked her and I liked her values,” said Jodi Hebert Tuesday night.
Hebert said she voted for Donnelly because of the Democrat’s “integrity.” Steven Johnson of Rensselaer, who said he’s known Donnelly for 20 years, echoed that sentiment at the county Democratic watch party.
“I can only expect what we’ve seen from her as she was a judge, complete competency, she’s a wonderful person,” Johnson said. “I expect her to be solid for four years. I don’t even expect someone to run against her in four years – she had such a blowout tonight – so good luck to the next guy or girl.”
According to unofficial results from the Rensselaer County Board of Elections, more than 57,000 ballots were cast in the DA’s race, with Donnelly receiving about 31,500 votes. The New York state Board of Elections reports there were more than 33,500 registered Democrats, over 26,000 registered Republicans and some 32,000 unenrolled voters in the county as of November 1. In all, there are roughly 107,000 registered voters in Rensselaer County.