With voter turnout reported to be high throughout New York’s new 19th Congressional District, Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, emerged victorious Tuesday night in his quest to represent the new 19th Congressional District, defeating Democrat Julian Schreibman of Ulster County by more than 20,000 votes.
Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld, an unorthodox Republican who witheld his support from Romney, coasted to victory past Dan Lamb, a Tompkins County Democrat and former aide Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, who opted not to seek another term.
Officials throughout the region said they were impressed by the high levels of voter participation, much of it sparked by the hard-fought contest between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
The crisp fall weather also didn’t hurt turnout. “It was a beautiful day to get out to vote,” said Roxbury Town Supervisor Tom Hynes.
Hynes said while the presidential race appeared to have generated the most interest among voters, local matchups also lured citizens to the voting booth. He observed that the race for the Delaware County judge appeared to be of greater interest to many voters than the duel between Gibson and Schreibman.
“(Carl) Becker and (Gary) Rosa are both pretty well-known in this county,” said Flynn, who has led his town for 28 years.
In one of upstate New York’s most closely watched congressional races, Gibson, with more than 85 percent of the votes counted, was leading Schreibman 54.5 percent to 45.5 percent.
Schreibman’s campaign was hampered by the fact he was facing a “folksy” incumbent in the person of Gibson, a retired Army colonel already known to most voters, said Adrian Kuzminski of Fly Creek, the founder of the anti-drilling group Sustainable Otsego, who had endorsed the Democrat.
He said Schreibman “missed a golden opportunity” to send a representative from his campaign to come out against the proposed Constitution Pipeline at a hearing held by federal regulators in Oneonta last month, the same night that the two congressional candidates were sparring at a debate elsewhere in Oneonta.
“He tried to run too much of a national campaign for a local race,” said Kuzminski.
Throughout the contest, Schreibman had accused Gibson of trying to “end the guarantee of Medicare” and voting to restrict abortion rights. Gibson retorted by calling Schreibman’s message “deceptive,” insisting that he views abortion as a private issue between women and their doctors.
Several elected officials said they believe that despite President Obama’s political strength in New York, it did not necessarily translate into voter support for other Democrats running under him on the ballot.
Earlier in the day in Milford, local school officials had let the kids in all grades participate in a straw poll to determine who they favored for the White House. Obama won that in a romp, taking 488 votes eight for Romney, said Milford Town Supervisor Chris Harmon, a Democrat. He noted he usually votes early in the morning but waited until later in the day Tueday in order to bring his children with him after they got out of school.
“There was a little bit of a line this time,” he recalled.
Local election monitors said the ballotiong in the region was markedly free of any serious irregularities.
Judith Garrison of Andes, a Delaware County elections commissioner, said while no significant issues with voting machines were reported, a small number of voters faced challenges due to the fact their names did not appear on the rolls.
She said Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Michael V. Coccoma of Otsego County went to Delaware County both Tuesday morning and afternoon and issued court orders allowing those citizens to vote after querying them about their eligibility. Garrison, a Democrat, said there was no indication that the challengers were linked to any concerted effort to suppress votes based on political motives.
She also said local Board of Elections officials had to scramble to comply with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order, issued late Monday, allowing those displaced by Hurricane Sandy to vote in any New York State location where they could. Ballots allowing those persons to vote in both the presidential race and the U.S. Senate races were made available to those persons, Garrison said.
“Unfortunately, there was no similar order covering the people from here who went down there (to downstate communities impacted by the hurricane) to help out,” Garrison noted.
Otsego County Elections Commissioner Sheila Ross, who is also the county GOP chairwoman, said only about three New York City-area residents impacted by the storm showed up at local pollling places and asked to vote. One was in Unadilla, a second was in West Oneonta and a third was in the city of Oneonta, she said.
“It’s not going to impact a thing,” said Ross. She also noted that she was one of several county elections officials who asked state officials to broaden the executive order so it would cover volunteers from upstate counties who traveled to the storm-hit regions in recent days to assist in the recovery.
“Nothing ever happened,” she said of the request, noting three or four people from Otsego County who wanted to vote couldn’t because storm volunteers were not included in the governor’s executive order.