Two tight and contentious New York state Senate races have been decided — one in favor of the incumbent Democrat; the other for the Republican challenger. The New York Civil Liberties Union was seeking intervenor status in the latter until the race was decided. Still, the NYCLU says the issue in the race is a broader one that needs attention.
Republican Mike Martucci says he has clinched victory in the 42nd District race, unseating first-term Democrat Jen Metzger.
“All of us knew going in that this was going to be a close race, certainly a very competitive district, and the race turned out very close, again, as we had all expected,” Martucci says. “Certainly, from my perspective, leaving Election night with a very healthy lead, we felt very confident that we would maintain that lead, which we did through the absentee-count process.”
In all the other Hudson Valley state Senate districts, Democrats were able to erode any lead their Republican challengers held Election night, with absentee ballots trending in Democrats’ favor. Martucci, who was outspent, announced his run in January and says, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, the early start helped.
“I think that starting as early as we did, and starting to talk to as many voters as possible as early as possible was really key to meeting with success, especially with the absentee voters who weighed in so early,” says Martucci.
Prior to Metzger’s concession Tuesday, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a motion earlier in the day to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Martucci challenging a number of absentee and affidavit ballots, 1,500, according to NYCLU senior staff attorney Perry Grossman.
“The real issue is not who wins and who loses but that all the votes get counted. And so, our concern was that this strategy of challenging well over 1,000 ballots here is really an effort to disenfranchise voters. So that’s what we were concerned about in intervening in the lawsuit, or seeking to intervene in the lawsuit,” Grossman says. “That won’t be an issue now because the margin between the candidates is greater than the number of disputed ballots, but the issue is still absolutely important, which is, that this process of challenging the ballots of qualified voters is just an attempt to disenfranchise that really should be taken out of state law.”
“Well, look, I mean, I think what we were focused on was making sure that every legal vote is counted and, look, there is no legal means by which a campaign can disqualify a legal ballot,” says Martucci. “So I think really from our perspective and the perspective of so many other campaigns, what was so important was that we took a critical look because, as you had called out, there was an unprecedented number of absentee ballots that were cast this year, and it was important for us to make sure that all those ballots indeed were valid.”
Grossman says he’s keeping an eye on the state Senate race in the 50th District and New York’s 22nd Congressional district race between incumbent Democrat Anthony Brindisi and Republican Claudia Tenney for any efforts to disenfranchise voters, attempts he’s seen across New York and the nation.
“And so, to see this many challenges to ballots that have already been verified by bipartisan teams at the Board of Elections is deeply troubling. And so we’ll be paying attention to other races to challenge this process when it’s abused,” says Grossman. “And certainly we’ll be up Albany, figuratively speaking, looking to change state law so that candidates are not able to go into court and just knock out the ballots of voters they think aren’t going to vote for them.”
Metzger, who lives in Rosendale in Ulster County, conceded Tuesday. She made up ground via absentee ballots and says the final margin will be less than one percentage point when the remaining ballots are counted. Martucci is the former owner of a school bus company who resides in Orange County’s Town of Westtown.
“I had a great chat with the senator today,” says Martucci. “The senator was very gracious, has offered her help and assistance through the transition.”
The 42nd District, which includes Sullivan County and portions of Delaware, Orange and Ulster Counties, had long been in Republican hands before John Bonacic did not seek re-election in 2018. Also Tuesday, Democratic first-term State Senator Pete Harckham, of South Salem in Westchester County, declared victory over Republican Rob Astorino in the 40th District.
Astorino campaign spokesman Bill O’Reilly says Astorino, a former Westchester County executive who lives in Mount Pleasant, called Senator Harckham Tuesday morning to congratulate him on his victory and to offer him his support in any way. Harckham’s win ensures that Democrats will hold a supermajority in the state Senate. Here’s Harckham:
“There’s always been a natural institutional tension between the executive branch and the legislative branch, and it just helps that dynamic of being a co-equal branch of government,” says Harckham.
The 40th district includes portions of Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties. In 2018, Harckham defeated Republican incumbent Terrence Murphy by 3,700 votes, becoming the district’s first Democrat in more than 100 years.