The fog of uncertainty currently shrouding the Presidential race has also fallen over the Hudson Valley and Catskills, and its source is the same: an unprecedented number of absentee ballots. In some counties, a quarter of voters are casting ballots by mail, which means that any race that was not a blowout after early voting and Election Day totals is still unknown.
Unlike elections officials in swing states who are furiously tabulating absentee ballots right now, most counties in New York—including every county in The River’s coverage area—will not start counting absentee ballots until next week. New York State law stipulates only that the recanvass of general election returns occur no later than November 18. It’s left to county Boards of Elections to set their own dates to begin counting absentee votes.
That was the plan before the lawsuit. On November 2, five Republicans running for state Senate filed separate lawsuits petitioning local courts to impound the absentee ballots before they could be opened. The suit, which also seeks to impound voting machines and other equipment, throws a slew of arguments against this year’s voting processes, asserting that some Boards of Elections altered procedures in a way that made it harder for poll watchers to monitor the vote count and alleging that ballot-counting machines are inaccurate and prone to hacking.
The five Republican Senate candidates filing the suit—Sue Serino, Daphne Jordan, Peter Oberacker, Richard Amedure, and Michael Martucci—are represented by New York GOP super-lawyer John Ciampoli. The lawsuits name the state and local Boards of Elections, as well as the plaintiff’s opponents.
Boards of Elections can start counting absentee ballots as soon as Friday, but if the lawsuits are permitted to go forward, the process screeches to a halt. The election materials would be taken by local sheriff’s offices and secured until the absentee ballots could be counted under the eyes of the Republicans filing the suit.
“They can do this as intensively as they want to, which can be a really dragged out, involved thing,” said Columbia County Elections Commissioner Ken Dow. “If they’re going to start challenging…even to review them, they’ll want to look at every envelope.
“It’s going to take a few days just to get through that crap,” he added.
The lawsuits were filed in every county in the five Senate districts and are proceeding on different schedules, but lawyers for Martucci and Oberacker are due in Delaware County Supreme Court on Friday to argue the case.
Until then, we won’t know for certain when the count will begin for absentee ballots, which are expected to lean to the Democrats in every race. With that caveat, here’s a snapshot of every contest in the Hudson Valley and Catskills as of Wednesday evening. All election districts have reported in-person voting totals from early voting and Election Day, unless otherwise noted.
Sean Patrick Maloney (D): 47.39%, 132,677
Chele Farley (R): 45.31%, 126,856
590 out of 618 districts reporting. Still to report: Dutchess (2), Orange (26)
Democratic Representative Sean Maloney has declared victory over Republican opponent Chele Farley on the strength of a slender two-point lead, but Maloney expects the margin to widen when absentee ballots are counted, he told the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Maloney’s campaign said that there have been 57,608 absentee ballots submitted in the race so far, 52 percent of them from registered Democrats and just 21 percent from registered Republicans. According to recent data from the New York State Board of Elections, registered Democrats make up about 37 percent of active voters in the 18th district, and registered Republicans about 30 percent.
Antonio Delgado (D): 47.59%, 141,751
Kyle Van De Water (R): 45.15%, 134,503
Freshman Democratic Congressman Antonio Delgado won about 7,000 more votes during in-person voting than Dutchess County attorney Kyle Van De Water. The absentee ballots are expected to lean heavily Democratic.
Delgado claimed victory in a press release at noon Wednesday, but as of 5pm on Wednesday, Van De Water had not conceded, the district had not been called by the Associated Press, and the Albany Times Union wrote the race may still be too close to call.
“Not so fast Delgado,” Van De Water wrote on Facebook shortly after Delgado’s claim. Van De Water, an ardent supporter of President Trump who frequently invoked God and respect for the flag on the campaign trail, raised only $130,480 while campaigning, compared to more than $5.7 million raised by Delgado.
James Skoufis (D): 50.00%, 54,976
Steve Brescia (R): 44.23%, 48,639
230 of 249 districts reporting (19 left in Orange County)
Democratic Senator James Skoufis has a significant lead over long-time Montgomery mayor Steve Brescia, though some districts in Orange County have yet to report their initial results. Skoufis won the previously Republican seat as part of the blue wave of 2018 that also carried Jen Metzger to victory, but his numbers look far better than Metzger’s after the initial ballot count. He claimed victory late Wednesday morning.
Rob Astorino (R): 51.31%, 65,686
Peter Harckham (D): 45.48%, 58,233
258 of 277 districts reporting (19 left in Westchester County)
Freshman state Senator Peter Harckham rode the blue wave to a two-point victory in 2018, flipping the 40th district, a longtime Republican stronghold now comprising northern Westchester County and eastern Putnam and Dutchess counties. Nationally, Democrats have not been able to maintain all of their red-to-blue gains from the midterm elections, and the same trend has imperiled Harckham’s reelection campaign.
The Republican challenger, Rob Astorino, led by almost 7,500 votes on Wednesday evening, with 19 election districts still to report in-person totals. How those break is an open question: Those districts are in Westchester County, which leans left and went to Biden by almost 30 points. But Astorino is the former Westchester County executive, and may do better than the average Republican in the county.
Harkham was “cautiously optimistic” in a speech late on Tuesday night. Of the 38,000 absentee votes that were in by Election Day, more than 20,000 were from registered Democrats, he said. “Right now it looks like we’ll be going to the absentees.”
Sue Serino (R): 56.49%, 68,907
Karen Smythe (D): 40.56%, 49,477
236 of 238 districts reporting (2 left in Dutchess County)
Businesswoman Karen Smythe, who received only 688 fewer votes than Repulican Sue Serino in 2018, conceded their rematch in a Wednesday morning phone call to the incumbent. “At the end of the day, every absentee ballot must be opened and every vote counted. But even with nearly 30,000 absentee ballots received and more still arriving, the results of in-person voting make it clear that our campaign does not have a path forward,” Smythe wrote a post on her campaign’s Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon.
Smythe ran on a progressive platform of economic and racial justice, while Serino ducked debates and media interviews, relying on her record of advocating for seniors and nursing home residents and challenging Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Michael Martucci (R): 52.65%, 58,685
Jen Metzger (D): 43.11%, 48,054
256 of 263 districts reporting (7 left in Orange County)
First-term Democrat Jen Metzger released a statement late Tuesday saying it could take weeks to declare a winner, and that her campaign would “patiently await the final results.” About an hour later, businessman Michael Martucci claimed victory in a speech to supporters.
Metzger had established herself as a well-known environmental advocate when she flipped the 42nd, formerly a Republican stronghold, in 2018 by about 3.5 points. Martucci has criticized Metzger for her support of the New York Health Act and bail reform, attracting the hearty endorsement of state and local police unions.
“The voters have spoken, and they have embraced my Families First agenda that is rooted in public safety and investing in our district instead of pouring endless resources into New York City,” Martucci told the Kingston Daily Freeman on Wednesday.
Daphne Jordan (R): 55.58%, 76,150
Patrick Nelson (D): 40.84%, 55,953
Incumbent Republican Daphne Jordan claimed victory overnight Tuesday after taking a strong lead in the initial ballot count. “It looks like my Senate reelection campaign has won by a margin of more than 20,000 votes,” she stated in a press release.
Although it may have “looked” like Jordan won by 20,000 votes, she has not. That figure discounts absentee ballots, almost 10,000 of which were sent out in the Columbia County portion of the district alone. Nelson pointed this out in a tweet Wednesday morning attacking Jordan’s assertion. “It is a true indictment on Sen. Jordan’s qualifications for this office that she either does not understand NY’s election laws, or that like @realDonaldTrump she is intentionally trying to mislead the public about the process,” he wrote. Nelson said he would still have to win 80 percent of absentee ballots to prevail.
Richard Amedure (R): 51.19%, 66,784
Michelle Hinchey (D): 44.93%, 58,613
Democrats hoped to flip the 46th district this year after long-time Senator George Amedore decided not to seek reelection. Hinchey, a former communications executive and daughter of the late Hudson Valley congressman and environmentalist Maurice Hinchey, attracted the energies of Indivisible groups and outraised her opponent 3-to-1.
Hinchey trailed first-time candidate Richard Amedure, a retired New York State Trooper, after the initial count, but by a narrow-enough margin that absentee ballots will likely make the race a nailbiter. Hinchey released a statement late Wednesday morning saying the race “is not over yet!”
“We are strongly encouraged by our competitive standing, the absentee ballots left to count and the connection that we made with voters of all political stripes,” the statement continued.
Peter Oberacker (R): 57.01%, 64,014
Jim Barber (D): 37.70%, 42,336
Otsego County board representative Peter Oberacker led by nearly 20 percentage points after in-person voting in the race for this open seat, formerly held by Republican James Seward. He voiced restraint in an overnight statement, saying it was “important that we ensure every vote is counted”—a process the Schenevus entrepreneur apparently wants to take an active role in steering, as he filed a lawsuit on November 2 against the state Board of Elections as well as nine county boards seeking to have ballots in his district impounded.
Oberacker’s Democratic opponent, Jim Barber, conceded Wednesday afternoon. In a very upstate New York move, after issuing a statement of defeat, the Schoharie farmer posted a photo of himself cutting firewood. “Working out some of that post-election stress,” he wrote.
Karl Brabenec (R), unopposed: 70.66%, 35,764
After winning by 25 points in 2018, Brabenec cruised unimpeded to a fourth term in this district, which stretches across the southern half of Orange County.
Colin Schmitt (R): 57.85%, 31,531
Sarita Bhandarkar (D): 35.75%, 19,485
Schmitt, a commercial real estate agent and National Guard corporal, looked to be in a comfortable position for winning a second term in the 99th, which is composed of a central chunk of Orange County plus the town of Stony Point in Rockland County. He gave a victory speech on Tuesday night.
Aileen Gunther (D), unopposed: 61.96%, 28,747
Gunther, a registered nurse with a national certification in infection control, will be elected for a fifth term in the 100th, which comprises most of Sullivan County plus the towns of Wallkill and Mount Hope in Orange County. The area has gone to Trump in 2016 and 2020, but registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, and Gunther has not had a GOP challenger since 2012.
Brian Miller (R): 60.04%, 32,475
Chad McEvoy (D): 31.86%, 17,236
114 of 117 districts reporting (3 left in Oneida County)
In the second rematch of the night, SUNY Oneonta Project Manager Chad McEvoy fell far behind incumbent Republican Brian Miller after initial votes were counted. Miller claimed victory overnight Tuesday, and McEvoy conceded midday Wednesday. “I sincerely want Assemblyman Brian Miller to be successful in delivering results for the people of this district and wish him my very best,” he posted on Facebook.
Chris Tague (R): 64.72%, 37,465
Betsy Kraat (D): 30.97%, 17,929
Chris Tague thanked voters and claimed victory in a midday Facebook post on Wednesday, illustrated by a photo of him addressing supporters in front of a large “Trump 2020” flag. The former Schoharie supervisor was an alternate Trump delegate at the GOP national convention in 2016.
Democratic challenger Betsy Kraat, a social worker from Hunter, faced almost impossible odds in the safely Republican 102nd, and is down more than 30 points, but she wants to see the ballots counted anyway. “We’re confident that there will be a significant showing for Betsy in the absentee votes that have yet to be counted. Therefore, we will wait for all votes to be counted before making any further decisions,” she told The River.
Kevin Cahill (D): 64.12%, 38,457
Rex Bridges (R): 32.55%, 19,526
With a commanding lead in a district that’s likely to go even more Democratic after absentee ballots are counted, longtime Assemblyman Kevin Cahill coasted to an easy victory on Election Day. Cahill’s Republican opponent Rex Bridges posted a folksy concession statement on Wednesday. “Well, as you have likely seen, we came up short on this one. I would like to thank everyone who shared a hamburger, put up a sign, prayed, and got out and voted,” he wrote.
Jonathan Jacobson (D): 54.98%, 22,079
Andrew Gauzza (R): 37.24%, 14,956
Jacobson, the incumbent, was well ahead in this solidly blue district after the initial count, and seems poised for a second term representing Newburgh and Poughkeepsie in the Assembly. The lawyer and former Newburgh council member had a raft of progressive endorsements, including the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, AFL-CIO, and several local workers unions.
Kieran Michael Lalor (R): 59.08%, 33,651
Laurette Giardino (D): 34.48%, 19,642
98 of 100 districts reporting (two left in Orange County)
Lalor, a Marine vet and entrepreneur, first won election to this seat in rural Dutchess County in 2012. With a 25-point lead after Election Day, he claimed victory on Twitter. Giardino, a business owner herself who ran on a platform supporting the New York Health Act and gun and campaign finance reform, has yet to concede.
Didi Barrett (D): 49.36%, 25,951
Dean Michael (R): 45.91%, 24,138
Barrett won this district, which covers most of the northern half of Dutchess County and southern half of Columbia County, by 10-plus points in the last two elections. She faced a challenge this year from Dean Michael, who campaigned on cutting the deficit and loosening business regulations. But once absentee ballots are counted, her margin of victory should creep close to double digits. She claimed victory on Facebook on Wednesday. “We Won!” Barrett wrote. “I am tremendously honored to be re-elected to serve a sixth term representing our beautiful district in the New York State Assembly.”
Here’s how each county in our coverage area voted for president during early voting and on Election Day:
Given that absentee ballots have not been counted, these numbers don’t tell us much yet. But here’s what we do know: Biden looks to have expanded on Hillary Clinton’s margins of victory in Columbia and Ulster counties, which the former Secretary of State won by 5 percent and 11 percent, respectively, in 2016. Dutchess County was decided by less than half a point in Clinton’s favor last time out, and looks to be razor thin again once absentee ballots are counted.
Trump’s results thus far are up about 3-4 points from 2016 in Dutchess, Delaware, Orange, Schoharie, and Sullivan counties. That may be a good proxy for how much the absentee ballots will shift the numbers toward Biden.
But that’s a question for another day.