Few Problems Cited During NY's Special Elections

Apr 24, 2018

Few problems have been reported during special elections today. Voters are deciding who will fill nine state Assembly and two Senate seats. A few of the races have garnered widespread attention.

The race for the 37th Senate District in lower Westchester County could tip the balance in the chamber. It’s a heated contest between Democratic Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer and Republican Julie Killian for the seat vacated by Democrat George Latimer, who took office as Westchester County Executive January 1. Westchester County Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner Reginald LaFayette says there have been no issues thus far, and expects the usual uptick in voter turnout after work. Rensselaer County Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Jason Schofield is reporting the same for the 107th Assembly District race that pits Democrat Cindy Doran against Republican Jake Ashby.

“Knock on wood, everything’s been running nice and smooth,” says Schofield.

Schofield says he usually hears from election inspectors only when there are problems. And not hearing from them means it’s hard to get a handle on voter turnout. He can speak to absentee ballots, however.

“We sent out 1,107 absentees and we received back 587.”

Republican Steve McLaughlin vacated the 107th Assembly seat after being elected Rensselaer County Executive.

Amid reports of ongoing voter suppression across the country, the Washington, D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was operating an election protection hotline to assist voters in New York’s special elections. President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke says it was a quiet day, with most callers asking about where to vote. The hotline closed at 6 p.m. despite that polls in New York are open until 9 p.m.

Mayer and Killian have been hitting the pavement to make their cases in the 37th Senate District, which includes, in part, Bedford, Harrison, Katonah, Larchmont, New Rochelle, Rye, White Plains and Yonkers. In 2017, incumbent Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino lost to Latimer, a result party strategists on both sides said was a referendum on President Trump. The question is whether the blue wave continued to roll into the voting booths today. Dr. Christopher Mann is assistant professor of political science at Skidmore College. He speaks to whether the outcome of the Killian-Mayer race would be a referendum on anything.

“I think it’ll be interesting to see which way it goes and what the margin is in the direction that it goes because it could be a sign of just exactly where things stand right now, not necessarily in November, but right now in terms of Democratic enthusiasm, Republican enthusiasm for turning out,” says Mann. “We’ve seen a lot of these special elections at different levels around the country indicate that there’s a lot more energy on the Democratic side at the moment. So it’ll be interesting to see if that’s true here in the Hudson Valley.”

Here’s Mayer.

“There is a sense of urgency and excitement that is really driven by the dysfunction in Washington and the tone of the Trump Administration that has driven people locally to say, I am going to do from the  ground up. I’m going to participate in taking back our government,” Mayer says.

Killian, who ran for the same seat in 2016 and is a former City of Rye councilwoman, says her focus is in Westchester.

“And my opponent has tried to tie me to Trump. I’ve never met Trump. And, to me, if they want to make this race about Trump, have at it, but that shows me that they don’t have any solutions to what’s going on in our community because we have issues going on down here. That’s what I’m totally focused on,” says Killian.

Given the recent merging of Senate Democrats and the Independent Democratic Conference, Mann points out that either candidate could give the Senate a razor-thin majority for her party.