Absentee ballots seal Republican wins
McLaughlin, Mantello claim victories, GOP councilman falls by single vote
TROY, N.Y. » A second day of counting absentee ballots was all that was needed to decide two of the hottest races on the ballot in Rensselaer County this year.
County election officials dove into absentee ballots from the city of Troy on Tuesday, ending the day not only with final vote tallies in a pair of city races, but also a concession from the Democratic candidate for county executive.
Andrea Smyth called her opponent, Republican Assemblyman Steven McLaughlin, to finally concede the race early Wednesday afternoon, after the count of absentee ballots for about a third of the city’s 30 election districts only trimmed 10 votes off a McLaughlin lead that was nearly 950 votes on Election Night. While McLaughlin declared victory that night, Smyth chose to wait for the absentee count, hoping for a shot of support in the city, which has a solid majority of Democratic voters.
“It feels like a bit of relief, a bit of running the gauntlet, because we certainly did,” McLaughlin said outside the county office building Monday afternoon. “We were up against it, we were outgunned, but we were never outworked.”
While McLaughlin said Republicans nationwide had to deal with a backlash from voters unhappy with the party since it took both the White House and both houses of Congress one year ago, he said he believes he survived because he has always been on the side of the people who voted him into office for a third time since
first winning a seat in the Assembly in 2010 by ousting incumbent Democrat Timothy Gordon.
“One thing I have done in my seven years in the Assembly is I have stood up strong for my constituents,” McLaughlin said, “and I will fight like a wolverine to protect them. I think they really paid dividends in this race. People may not always agree with Steve McLaughlin, but they know I’m going to fight for them.”
Meanwhile, Troy City Council President Carmella Mantello managed to withstand
a Democratic surge on Election Day that turned a 6-3 GOP council majority into a 5-2 Democratic majority, at least for the moment. Mantello’s 40-vote Election Night lead over Democratic county Legislator Gary Pavlic was never threatened, finishing unofficially with a 46-vote margin of victory.
“I’m just gratified that so many people came down off that Democratic line,” Mantello said after Tuesday’s count was completed. “With nine competitive citywide races, I was fortunate enough to be chosen to represent the people of Troy as the first City Council president that folks elected directly [as the result of a
change in the City Charter that abolished two other atlarge council seats].”
While the GOP held on to the council presidency, it lost another council seat Tuesday, as Democrat Cindy Barclay saw a 14-vote Election Night deficit turn into a single-vote victory over incumbent District 2 Councilman Mark McGrath. That race may still not be over, though, because each party challenged three of the ballots, leaving three votes that could still be allowed by a judge if McGrath chooses by Friday to challenge those removed by Democrats.
“I want to congratulate my opponent and her team,” said McGrath, who was running for a second
two-year term in his second stint on the council. “They got folks registered and to the polls. Give credit where credit is due. It was an honor to serve so many years, but everything has a shelf life.”
If McGrath’s loss stands up, that would leave the new council with just two incumbents: Mantello and District 1 Republican Councilman James Gulli, who won re-election over Democrat Peggy Kownack. They will be joined by Democrats Colleen Murtagh Paratore, Anasha Cummings, David Bissember and TJ Kennedy, as well as Barclay.
“I’m looking forward to representing the entire district, and I think that’s the
message that got out there,” Barclay said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s not for one party or any voters in particular; it’s for the neighbors, for the community.”
County election officials began Monday the task of reviewing an estimated 2,000 absentee ballots and affidavits. The first day of votes solidified Republican victories in a pair of races in the town of North Greenbush, and now, the only remaining race where absentee votes could make a difference is in the town of Sand Lake, where Democrat Virginia Erickson leads Republican Stuart Nippes, 1,489-1,447, in the race for the second of two available seats on the Town Board.
Troy City Council President Carmella Mantello, center, keeps track of results in her re-election campaign as absentee ballots are counted Tuesday at the Rensselaer County Board of Elections.
Rensselaer County Legislator Gary Pavlic and Troy city Democratic chairwoman Carole Weaver, review absentee vote numbers in the race for Troy City Council president, which Pavlic unofficially lost by 46 votes.