As Americans crowded around television sets and computer screens on Nov. 3, tensions were high. Despite hopes of a conclusive end to an anxiety-ridden election season, New Yorkers and many across the country will have to wait days or weeks to see the final outcomes of local, state and congressional races. The presidential election is similarly up in the air, with neither President Donald Trump nor Joe Biden receiving the required 270 electoral electoral votes. This is in large part due to the deluge of mail-in ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic. For now, Election Day is only one piece of the process.
New York Board of Elections officials released the tallies of some 2.5 million early voting ballots when polls closed at 9 p.m. Election Day results were updated through the night. Of the 33,432 ballots cast across Dutchess between Oct. 27 and Nov. 1, 54 percent were from Democrats and 20.3 percent from Republicans.
Voters turned out in record numbers, but mail-in ballots could turn the tide in some races. Republicans are more likely to vote on Election Day, while Democrats prefer absentee and early voting. It will take a week or more for Dutchess County’s more than 29,096 absentee ballots to be tabulated. Board of Elections officials expect to receive more by the Nov. 10 deadline for mail-in ballots.
While Election Day doesn’t mark the end, the night might hint at who comes out on top in some key races.
NY-19 Congressional District
Incumbent Democrat Antonio Delgado has declared victory against challenger Republican Kyle Van De Water, but official results are not yet confirmed.
Results began pouring in at 9 p.m. on Nov. 3. Delgado started off the night pulling in a large lead over Van De Water with nearly 70 percent of the votes, with 18 percent of the votes reported. The race tightened in the early hours of the morning, but Delgado maintained the majority.
In a press release from his campaign, Delgado celebrated his success. “The people of New York’s 19th Congressional District have made their voices heard and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to serve again,” said Delgado.
He continued, “With all election districts reporting, I am leading by over 7,000 votes and the data shows that our margin of victory will grow once absentee ballots are accounted for.”
Delgado, who is completing his first term, won the race from then-freshman John Faso (R-NY) in 2018 with a 51.4 percent majority. Delgado’s platform focuses on increasing accessibility to health care, improving internet access in rural areas, defending agricultural rights and delivering pandemic relief to local businesses. He is a graduate of Colgate University and Harvard Law School as well as a Rhodes Scholar.
His challenger, Kyle Van De Water, a 40-year-old Poughkeepsie native, ran on a platform to repeal the Affordable Care Act, create more jobs, reopen local businesses, support local farmers and defend the 2nd Amendment. He is an alumnus of University of Massachusetts Amherst with an ROTC scholarship and attended Albany Law School. He was an active duty member of the United States Army and received a bronze star for his service in 2011.
Delgado and Van De Water clashed during their debate on topics such as a state-wide mask mandate, healthcare and the appointment of Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Van De Water tried to paint Delgado as a pawn of the far left, whereas Delgado defended his record, and pointed out that he is one of just three House Members that managed to get two or more bills passed in 2019.
— Olivia Watson
NY-18 Congressional District
Incumbent Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney declared premature victory in the race to represent New York’s 18th district against Republican challenger Chele Farley. Although absentee ballots have yet to be counted, Maloney indicated that he expects his lead to grow as more votes come in. As of Wednesday morning, Maloney leads with 50.78 percent of the vote.
Though the 18th district is not a Democratic stronghold, Maloney’s success does not come as a significant surprise. Prior to Tuesday night, FiveThirtyEight rated the race as “Solidly Democratic,” as did the Cook Political Report. A poll released on Oct. 19 showed Maloney beating Farley by 18 percentage points, further bolstering confidence in Maloney’s chances. Maloney had also surpassed Farley in fundraising numbers. As of Oct. 14, Maloney had raised $2,409,184 and spent $1,350,913, while Farley had raised $1,137,799 and spent $900,594.
Farley has a background in the financial services industry and has worked as a managing director at Mistral Capital International, a private equity firm. She has focused her campaign on strengthening restrictions on immigration, lowering taxes and improving the “toxic culture” of Washington, D.C. Farley has placed a particularly strong emphasis on ensuring that taxes paid by New Yorkers are redirected back into the state. She also criticized Maloney for co-sponsoring the “Green New Deal,” accusing Maloney of moving too far to the left. She’d previously challenged Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in 2018, a race Farley lost by 34 percentage points.
Maloney was first elected to Congress in 2012, after defeating incumbent Republican Nan Hayworth. Prior to serving in Congress, Maloney worked as a senior advisor in the Clinton administration and created a high-tech start up. During Maloney’s tenure in Congress, he has primarily focused on issues of national security, ensuring clean drinking water, and protecting benefits for veterans. His reelection campaign focused heavily on protecting local farmers, as well as addressing the opioid epidemic and combatting gridlock in Congress.
Maloney is also the first openly gay member of Congress from New York, and serves as the co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. In 2019, Maloney introduced the Equality Act, which would extend the federal civil rights protections, such as those included in the Civil Rights Act, to members of the LGBTQ community. The Equality Act passed the House with 276 votes, but has yet to be taken up in the Senate.
New York’s 18th district encompasses the cities of Newburgh, Beacon and Poughkeepsie, including Vassar’s campus. After going to Obama in 2012, the 18th district flipped in 2016, with Trump winning it narrowly by 1.9 percentage points. However, registered Democrats still outnumber registered Republicans. As of Feb. 21, 2020, there are 165,990 registered Democrats and 135,370 registered Republicans within the district. Maloney’s victory signals that Democrats are maintaining their advantage in the 18th district.
In his statement on reelection, Maloney pledged to build on his past work in Congress, stating, “I will work every day to deliver the relief Hudson Valley families and our communities need. I also look forward to continuing my work rebuilding our infrastructure, supporting our veterans and military families, and expanding access to health care.” Maloney currently sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the House Agriculture Committee. He has authored over 40 bills during his time in Congress, with a heavy focus on agriculture and protecting local Hudson Valley farmers. Maloney has also emphasized his focus on passing a second coronavirus relief bill and protecting the Affordable Care Act. The likelihood of such legislation passing both chambers of Congress depends heavily on which party controls the Senate, where majority control remains unclear on Wednesday morning. If Republicans maintain control of the Senate, House Democrats are likely to face continued opposition in advancing legislation. However, Maloney’s win demonstrates the ongoing strength of the House Democratic caucus after a 2018 “blue wave.”
— Carolyn Patterson
State Senate District 41
2020 has been the year of reckoning for GOP Senator Sue Serino. After watching her previous 11-point margin erode to just 0.6 points in her 2018 battle against Democratic businesswoman Karen Smythe, Serino was one of the State Senate’s most vulnerable Republicans going into this year’s rematch.
On election night, Smythe briefly surged ahead of Serino, before falling 16 points behind in votes cast on election day.
Smythe’s campaign initially expressed hope that the 30,000 outstanding absentee ballots—where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 3 to 1—would propel her to victory. But by Wednesday afternoon, Smythe announced that she had conceded the race to Serino, saying that even with the large number of outstanding absentee ballots, “I do not see a different outcome.”
After a year of nationwide Republicans’ attacks on racial and reproductive rights, as well as COVID-19’s decimation of the Hudson Valley’s regional economy, this year’s stakes were higher than ever. While Smythe campaigned on the need for sweeping social justice reform, small-business leadership experience, and opposition to Trump’s Republican party, Serino sought to moderate her small-government stances with relatively receptive positions on racial justice movements and cast stones at the state’s Democratic-led COVID-19 response, which she painted as dangerously flawed. With Democrats in full control of the state government—a change from 2018—Serino likely suffered less from Smythe’s claims of GOP mismanagement.
SD-41 has conventionally been a GOP stronghold—only one Democrat has held the seat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt stepped down in 1913. But since Trump took office, Republicans’ margins within the district and throughout the region have suffered. The loss of SD-4 would have been one of the final dominoes to fall in the Democratic takeover of Hudson Valley politics.
Currently serving as the ranking member of the senate’s Aging and Social Services committees, we can expect that Serino will focus this next term on continuing her work to improve elder care across the state, prevent sexual violence, and push for education reform.
During her first race for the seat in 2014, Serino committed to serving no more than four two-year terms in the chamber. If she sticks to her promise, this will be her last term in the senate. If Serino stays out of the race in 2022, SD-41 may again face a reckoning as the GOP seeks to defend a seat that will no longer offer an incumbency advantage.
On Tuesday night, Smythe reminded supporters that “No matter what happens, we will all wake up in the morning and we will have more things to do,” striking a hopeful tone for a district that has begun to look more purple with each year.
Serino’s campaign could not be reached for comment.
— Alex Wilson
Dutchess County Court Judge
Dutchess County Court Judge Peter Forman’s go-to slogan for his reelection maintained a promise of stability amidst the pandemic: “You have a lot on your plate right now. The last thing you need is to worry about your county court judge.” For her part, Democrat Jessica Segal reminded constituents on the last early voting day that “the status quo just isn’t working anymore.” After a controversial campaign trail, the race is still any candidate’s game with thousands of absentee ballots in the fold.
For now, the race leans in the incumbent’s favor. Segal kicked off Election Night with a 45.01 point lead. Forman quickly gained on the newcomer, securing and rounding out Tuesday with a 7.47 point margin after all county districts reported their votes.
Segal is not letting up just yet. “We are still in this! With just 8,299 votes separating me and my opponent, and more than 27,000 absentee ballots yet to be counted, we are very much in this race!” said Segal in a statement.
As of Wednesday, Dutchess Board of Elections received 15,021 absentee ballots from registered Democrats, 5,410 from Republicans and 1,214 from Independents. They are still processing double votes (those who voted in person and absentee), according to Democratic Commissioner Elizabeth Soto.
This wouldn’t be the first time the two must wait for official tallies. A court battle over the fate of 105 ballots in the June Independence Party primary stretched results into an eight-week waiting game. The incumbent brought the lawsuit before New York Supreme Court Judge Paul Marx to allege ballot irregularities and contest the constitutional backing of the absentee ballots. In the end, Forman clinched the Independence Party line by 25 votes.
The primary has inspired Segal to take precautions in the event of a repeat scenario. “We have already spoken with an attorney in anticipation of a lawsuit similar to what we faced in the primary. I am ready to fight for your votes,” she said.
With 20 years of judicial experience in the county, many have come to respect Forman’s judgement. He’s served in four local courts: Family, Supreme, Surrogate and County. He’s also spent 15 years diverting non-violent offenders struggling with substance abuse away from incarceration and into treatment and monitoring programs. But if Dutchess does reelect Forman, the 65-year-old would only serve half of his 10 year term, as New York county court judges must retire at 70.
If Segal wins, Dutchess could jumpstart the newcomer’s judicial career and make history, as she would be the second woman to grace the bench since 1991. Segal brings 20 years of experience as a prosecutor, civil litigator and defense attorney to the race. The former Dutchess Senior Assistant District Attorney spent 17 years with the DA’s office and is now a part-time Assistant DA in Putnam County.
Compassion, empathy and a spotless trial record became hallmarks of the 47-year-old’s bid for the court. While 93 percent of Forman’s rulings have been affirmed by appellate courts, Segal touts this as a glaring distinction between her and the justice. She’s never had a case or trial overturned for error or misconduct.
As the votes are counted, Segal remains confident in the electoral process: “Please know that I will fight with everything I have to make sure that every ballot is counted and that your voices are heard, no matter the outcome.”
Forman could not be reached.
— Tiana Headley