After “agonizing” for 15 months and concluding he hadn’t quite been ready for prime time, failed Republican State Senate candidate George Amedore says now that losing by just 18 votes to Democratic unknown Cecilia Tkaczyk in 2012 “really opened my eyes.”
Did he mean he was glad he didn’t lose by one fewer vote, which would have meant being haunted by a Beatles song for the rest of his life? “It was just 17. You know what I mean. The way she won was way beyond compare … ”
Should he have spent just one more day in Ulster County, which Democrat Tkaczyk won by an 8,000-vote margin? Or should he have planned his campaign to peak on or about the first Tuesday in November rather than a month earlier?
The 44-year-old Capital District homebuilder meant none of those things, however agonizing those considerations might have been. Rather, he was speaking about public service in the broader sense, something he said he didn’t fully appreciate after three easy elections to the Assembly from Rotterdam.
I caught up with Amedore after reading that he had attended a Republican reception in Highland over the weekend for newly announced GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino. (Fortunately, he had not changed his cell phone number from two years ago.)
“I’ve come to better understand that public service has to be one that is very selfless,” he said in a telephone interview. “A lot of these elected officials grow an ego where their main purpose is to keep their position. That’s not what our Founding Fathers did. A citizen legislature has the pulse of the people and of the marketplace.”
He said he’s always favored term limits. Had only ten votes switched in the 2012 election, Amedore at 42 would have been one of the youngest state senators, and on track for a possible 20-year career in the state’s House of Lords. But of course to be a career politician you have to win the first one.
Like other business people, what he called “this winter of our discontent” hasn’t been kind to Amedore, though he was careful not to blame the weather on his once and perhaps future opponent. “I don’t talk about her one way or the other,” he said, returning to the question. “This winter has been hard on all of us. The [homebuilding] market has been definitely slow to pick up. We’ve been busy trying to be as efficient as we can.”
Amedore has been out and around, sniffing the cold wind, listening, commiserating, traveling the sprawling 46th Senate District in his spare time, “talking to individuals.”
He said he’s been hearing a lot of despair, discontent and frustration. “People are just sick and tired, and they can’t afford the burden — things I expected to hear. They need some hope and confidence.”
Such conditions are fertile ground for viable challengers, threatening to incumbents. I couldn’t resist asking about his plans. He didn’t bite, but he didn’t dismiss the thought, either. His decision on whether to run “will be made in the right time,” he said, and not at the behest of political bosses.
Time is running out
Party nominating conventions will be held in late May, early June, barely three months away. Those party bosses will want a firm commitment if not a formal announcement of candidacy from the man some consider their best hope. Incumbents are most vulnerable in their second elections.
Amedore’s reservations about running have little to do with finances, it seems. He and his family spent lavishly on his last campaign, with considerable assistance from the well-stocked Republican Senate Campaign Committee. Having carried 49.99 percent of the vote in a presidential year, he has not only the name recognition, the most valuable of political commodities, but the means.
And yet, Amedore, apparently a man with a long memory, shrinks from what he called another “ugly, dirty, mud-slinging campaign.”
“What they did to me last time painted me to be a person that I’m not,” he said. “You gotta have thick skin.” The Democrats managed to beat him with an eleventh-hour avalanche of campaign cash, something Amedore would be forewarned against should he tee it up again.
Meanwhile, assemblyman Pete Lopez said he’ll be running for reelection this year, despite overtures from Senate Republican leaders to challenge Tkaczyk. Lopez lives in Schoharie County, just outside the 46th district. “I was honored to be asked,” Lopez said, “but my wife and I talked it over and decided we didn’t want to move. Besides, I didn’t want to be considered a carpetbagger if I moved into the district just to run for senate.”
Lopez’s Assembly district overlaps at least a third of the State Senate district. He and Tkaczyk both represent Saugerties. Amedore ran with the same strategy two years ago.