Incumbent U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson (R-Kinderhook) cruised to an overwhelming victory over Democratic challenger Sean Eldridge in the race for New York’s 19th Congressional District. Gibson held a commanding lead throughout the night; Eldridge conceded the race shortly before 11 p.m.
A Siena University/Time Warner Cable News poll taken one week before the election showed Gibson holding a 23 percent lead and winning support from a significant number of Democrats. Those numbers were borne out on election night. By 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 4, with 374 of 636 election districts reporting, Gibson held a 75,656-37,920 lead (64.5 to 32.3 percent). Gibson also prevailed in Ulster County, the most heavily Democratic region of the district which takes in all or part of 11 counties. In Ulster, where he lost by a wide margin to Democrat Julian Schreibman in 2012, Gibson won 26,146-22,595 (53.5 to 46.3 percent).
Gibson had held out a victory in Ulster County as a major goal of his campaign and validation of his efforts to make inroads with Democrats and non-aligned voters. Gibson, a retired Army colonel came to Ulster County in 2012 when a redrawing of district lines placed the freshman congressman in a district near evenly split between Democrats, Republicans and non-aligned voters. In 2012 and again this year, Gibson ran on a promise of moderation and compromise, touting his membership in the bipartisan “No Labels” caucus and a handful of votes where he bucked the house leadership to vote with Democrats. Gibson also moved quickly to establish a presence in Ulster County, opening up a district office in Midtown Kingston and backing local initiatives like an Irish Cultural Center and revitalization plan in the city. The strategy paid off in high approval ratings among Democrats and independent voters.
Eldridge, a 28-year-old venture capitalist, sought to undermine Gibson’s moderate reputation by tying the incumbent to the far-right of the House Republican caucus. In attack ads and on the campaign trail, Eldridge hammered Gibson’s record on the environment, abortion and Obamacare. The effort was a failure, with poll numbers barely moving between Labor Day and Halloween. Eldridge, who moved into the district in early 2013, was dogged by allegations of carpetbagging. He also faced accusations of trying to buy a seat in Congress by investing some $4 million of his personal fortune into the race.
“Tonight’s victory was a direct result of the overwhelming support we received from all corners of the district and across party lines,” stated Gibson. “I am so grateful to all of our volunteers, supporters, and those who cast a vote at the polls today. I am honored to once again have been entrusted by my friends and neighbors to represent them in Congress.
“Now, there remains much to be done — growing our economy, healthcare reform that works, ensuring sound fiscal and environmental policy and protecting our freedoms,” Gibson continued. “Most immediately, I will be working with the Senate to ensure passage of my Lyme disease bill so we can get that bill signed into law by the president.”
Eldridge expressed gratitude to his supporters and volunteers, and congratulated Gibson on his win. “Although we fell short tonight, I am proud of the issues we focused on in this race, from building an economy that works for all Americans to the need to address campaign finance reform and climate change with much greater urgency, and I remain committed to fighting for those issues and working to make life better for families in our region.”
In other election news, nine-term Assemblyman Kevin Cahill scored an easy victory with 20,410 votes in the Ulster County portion of the district against Ulster County Legislator Kevin Roberts’ 12,870. When he takes office in January, Cahill will become the longest-serving member of the state legislature in county history, eclipsing the record of former assemblyman Maurice Hinchey, who served 18 years in Albany before winning election to Congress.
In the hotly contested race for state Senate in the 46th district, incumbent Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk carried Ulster by 2,504 votes (54.6 percent) over former assemblyman George Amedore, but saw her vote total in Ulster drop by over 10,000. Tkaczyk, a former Duanesburg school board president, lost to Amedore this time around.
With other Democratic losses, the state Senate was expected to swing to a Republican majority in January.
In a closely watched race, Republican Keri Savona of Kingston was leading Democrat Gilda Riccardi of Saugerties for Family Court judge by an unofficial 1,672 votes.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, with about 44 percent of the vote in Ulster County, was running well behind his running mates — Comptroller Tom DiNapoli (59 percent) and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (55 percent), but was easily re-elected to a second term.
Republican Lisa Fisher of Ravena and Democrat Justin Corcoran were running a tight race in Ulster for state Supreme Court judge, but the balance of power in the Third District is centered in the heavily Democratic Capital District.
Republican state Sen. Bill Larkin was taking 70 percent of the vote against Democrat Gay Lee. Senators John Bonacic and James Seward were unopposed for re-election as were Sheriff Paul VanBlarcum, Surrogate Judge Mary Work, and Assemblyman Peter Lopez.
All returns are unofficial.
Hugh Reynolds contributed to this report.