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Democrats still talk of a "path'' to Senate victory

ALBANY -- It could take weeks, or months, of such updates before the three contested Senate races are finally decided. But here's the latest from the Senate Democrats, who insist the Republicans shouldn't be too cozy about claiming they've won back the chamber's majority just yet.

In the local 60th district fight between Democratic Sen. Antoine Thompson and Republican challenger Mark Grisanti, the sides were back in court today in Niagara County in a continuation of their legal fight over how the vote count will proceed. (You'll recall the Democrats are floating the idea of recounting every single vote -- whether cast on the new electronic machines or on paper ballots.)

Things are stalled today in Westchester County, pending another court motion that will be back before a judge next week in the race between Democratic Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer and her GOP challenger, Bob Cohen. And in the third contested race -- between Democratic Sen. Craig Johnson and Republican Jack Martins on Long Island -- the counting of absentee ballots is under way today.

“New Yorkers have spoken, and now it’s our job to ensure their voices are heard through a full, fair, and honest count of every vote. With each new tally, Democratic candidates are gaining strength and moving forward along a clear path to victory – counting every vote,” said Austin Shafran, spokesman for the DSCC.

No word yet from Senate Republicans on their take of things today. [See GOP update below.]

What follows is a briefing sheet Shafran sent reporters this morning. It reflects where Democrats believe things stood in the three races as of last night.

SD 7 (Johnson v. Martins):

  • After gaining 61 votes yesterday, Johnson now trails by only 427 votes.
  • Johnson gained 61 votes from the counting of just 175 absentee and affidavit ballots out of a total of approximately 4,100 absentee and affidavit ballots returned.
  • At this pace, Johnson could gain over 1,000 additional votes by the conclusion of the counting of all absentee and affidavit ballots.

 SD 37 (Oppenheimer v. Cohen):

  • Oppenheimer now leads by 504 votes following the counting of all election districts.
  • GOP lawyers reneged on a promise to withdraw their election-day order blocking additional counting in Westchester –delaying the counting of 3,328 emergency ballots.
  • Still remaining to be counted are 2,455 absentee and 1,070 affidavit ballots which were returned with a Democratic enrollment advantage.

 SD 60 (Thompson v. Grisanti):

  • Thompson trails by just 597 votes – less than 1 percent of the total votes cast.
  • There are still more than 2,700 absentee ballots to be counted, nearly two-thirds of which were returned by Democrats.
  • 3% audits to examine the veracity of the machine vote count are continuing in Erie and Niagara counties.


Shafran sent in a reminder to note that there are also about 2,200 affidavit ballots to be counted in the Thompson/Grisanti race -- for a total of over 4,500 paper ballots.

UPDATE: Republicans dismissed Shafran's confidence as mere spin. From Scott Reif, a Senate Republican spokesman, comes the following:

7th Senate District

Yesterday, following the counting of absentee ballots in the heavily-Democratic 13th Assembly District, Craig Johnson narrowed Jack Martins’ lead from 489 votes to 427 votes.  Democrats chose to count this district first since they knew it would be favorable to their candidate.  The fact that Johnson only picked up 62 votes, ensures that Jack Martins will win this race by hundreds of votes.

Today, election workers are counting absentee ballots in the 16th Assembly District, the Democrat base of the 7th Senate district.  With approximately 270 more absentee ballots sent in by registered Democrats than registered Republicans, and 200 from unaffiliated voters in the 16th Assembly District, Johnson should lead Martins by hundreds of votes at the end of the day.

Next week, election workers will count absentee and affidavit ballots from the portion of Senate District 7 which overlaps with the 17th and 21st Assembly districts.  This is both the Republican base of the 7th Senate District and, geographically, Jack Martins' base.  With hundreds more absentee ballots filed by Republicans than Democrats in ADs 17 and 21, this will ensure that Jack Martins defeats Craig Johnson by hundreds of votes after all legitimate absentee and affidavit ballots have been counted.

Despite the Democrats' best efforts to spin the counts from the Democrat base of Senate District 7, there is absolutely no question that Jack Martins will soundly win this contest and join the new Senate Republican Majority.

37th Senate District 

There are approximately 8202 ballots still to be counted, including 3323 emergency ballots, 3814 absentees and 1065 affidavit ballots.  Oppenheimer continues to lead by  only 504 votes.

60th Senate District

All emergency ballots in Erie County - - a Democrat stronghold - - have now been counted. Out of 443 emergency ballots, Democrat incumbent Antoine Thompson had a net gain of only one vote (208 Thompson to 207 Grisanti).  Thompson now trails Republican Mark Grisanti by 597 votes (598 after previous recanvass) and faces even longer odds than he did prior to these votes being counted.

-- Tom Precious

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |