Challenger leads Valesky in Senate district primary

Published Sep 14, 2018 at 4:00pm

The central New York state senator who joined a group of Democrats who sided with Republicans to give that party control of the chamber for six years apparently lost to a challenger, though outstanding ballots left the race without a definitive outcome today.

The apparent winner in New York Senate District 53 in Thursday’s Democratic primary for statewide and local elections is challenger Rachel May, a former high school teacher who lives in Syracuse. She had 8013 votes to incumbent David Valesky’s 7,407, or 50.47 percent to 46.66 percent.

Valesky did not concede and May did not clearly claim victory, as the difference in their vote totals was less than the number of absentee ballots expected. Between the three counties about 914 absentee ballots had been returned in time to be counted. Valesky would need about two-thirds of them.

Valesky, first elected in 2004, joined in the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of four Democratic senators who in 2012 sided with Senate Republicans, providing enough votes to let the GOP gain leadership control of the Senate until this spring when the group announced a deal to again side with Senate Democrats.

Five IDC members lost primaries Thursday. Two won.

“We just changed New York, TOGETHER,” May said on Twitter shortly after 1 a.m. She also thanked other challengers to the IDC coalition candidates. “What a slate,” she said on Twitter.

Valesky said in a statement today he would let the counting process play out:

“First, I’d like to congratulate Rachel on a spirited race. Obviously, the count is very close, but there is a process to ensure that every vote is counted. That process starts today. As that progresses, I’m going to consult with my family to see what the next step is.”

The district includes the City of Oneida, Kirkland, Augusta, all of Madison County, and much of Syracuse and eastern Onondaga County.

Valesky, first elected in 2004, joined in the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of four Democratic senators who in 2012 sided with Senate Republicans, providing enough votes to let the GOP gain leadership control of the Senate until this spring when the group announced a deal to again side with Senate Democrats.

Valesky is an Oneida native who was first elected to the seat in 2004 and is ranking member of the Agriculture Committee. He worked as public-TV host and communications director and an aide to a state assembly membr.

May is a former high school teacher who lives in Syracuse and is coordinator of sustainability education at Syracuse University. She was endorsed by Oneida County Democratic Committee, according to her campaign website.

Valesky is also on the line of the Independence Party and Women’s Equality Party for the general election. May is on the Working Families Party line.

May campaigned by saying she would be a “true champion for Democratic priorities.”

The winner of the primary will face Onondaga Republican Janet Burman in November.May easily won in the Oneida County portion of the district, with more than 76 percent of the vote, 559-171. Valesky won Madison county with 58 percent of the vote, while May took Onondaga County Thursday, 51.5 to 45.2 percent.

In other primaries Thursday:

Assembly District 118

Robert J. Smullen, a retired Marine colonel from Johnstown, defeated former Cold Brook mayor Patrick Vincent with about 56 percent of the vote to about 40 percent. Smullen received 4,145 votes on primary day to Vincent’s 2,999.

The district includes Lee, Western, Steuben, Trenton, Deerfield and Boonville; all of Herkimer, Fulton and Hamilton counties; and part of St. Lawrence County.

Smullen also apparently won the Conservative Party line, 93 to 84 votes.

Smullen is the former leader of a Hudson River flood-control district. Vincent, who runs a Poland heating and fuel company, ran for the nomination in 2016 against Butler. Smullen and Vincent are also on the Conservative Party primary ballot in the 118th.

Vincent got more than 52 percent of the votes in Oneida County, 393-353.

Twenty-three-year Republican incumbent Marc Butler is not seeking re-election.

There is no Democratic primary; Keith Rubino is running as a Democrat and on the Working Families line.

Assembly District 119

Republicans Dennis Bova Jr. and Frederick L. Nicholas were separated by only 24 votes after Thursday’s voting in a race for the nomination to succeed Democrat Anthony Brindisi, who is running for Congress.

Bova had 862 votes to Nicholas’ 838, or 49.9 percent to about 48.6 percent.

The district includes the cities of Rome and Utica, Floyd, Marcy, Whitestown; Frankfort in Herkimer County.

Incumbent Democrat Anthony Brindisi is not seeking re-election while he runs for Congress.

Bova is a North Utica surgical technician with multiple sub-specialty certifications. Nicholas is a Utica College business administration graduate student who has run for Utica Common Council. Bova also has the Conservative and Reform lines.

No Democratic primary was held. Marianne Buttonschon is on the Democratic line..

District 121

Veteran incumbent William Magee defeated challenger Dan Butterman of Oneonta with more than 58 percent of the vote. Magee received 3,406 votes on primary day to Butterman’s 2,229.

In the district are all of Madison County; Sherrill, Vernon, Augusta, Marshall, Sangerfield, Bridgewater; most of Otsego County including Oneonta.

Magee of Nelson, first elected 28 years ago, owns an an auction company and is chairman of the chamber Agriculture Committee. Butterman is an insurance adjuster from Oneonta who is on that city’s school board and formerly on the town planning board and active in civic organizations. There is no Republican primary; John J. Salka is the Republican, Conservative and Reform candidate. Magee beat Salta 52-48 percent in 2016.

Magee easily won in Oneida County with 71 percent of the vote.

In the primary for  the Independence Party line for Whitestown town justice, Troy D. Little took 59 votes to 33 for  Aaron Cirasuolo.

In statewide primaries:

Oneida County largely followed the state. Incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo got 52 percent to Cynthia Nixon’s 46 percent. Incumbent Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul took 54 percent of the vote to Jumaane Willams’ 38 percent.

In the race for attorney general, however, Oneida County Democrats backed Zephyr Teachout, with 36 percent of the vote and about 35 percent for Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney. Statewide winner Letitia James got only about 19 percent, and attorney Leecia Eve 3.6 percent.