After Long Wait, Democrat Brindisi Flips New York House Seat
UTICA, N.Y. (AP) — Democrat Anthony Brindisi defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, following a contentious race that was settled by absentee ballots more than three weeks after Election Day.
Brindisi, an attorney and state assemblyman from Utica, was ahead by less than 2,000 votes on election night. On Wednesday, his lead had grown to just under 4,000 as additional absentee ballots were counted. While the results from 1,881 remaining ballots have yet to be reported, Brindisi's lead makes it mathematically impossible for Tenney to prevail.
Brindisi, 40, campaigned on calls for civility and bipartisanship in a district that supported Donald Trump in 2016. He was in Washington on Wednesday to prepare for his new job.
"I'm going to work on issues just as hard for people who did not support me as for those who did support me," Brindisi said Monday during an interview with WKTV-TV. "I believe that once elections are over, that's when the governing begins. When people call my office we're not going to ask them... are you a Democrat or a Republican. That does not matter to me."
He cited health care, funding for new roads, bridges and water systems, campaign finance reform and help for farmers as some of his top priorities.
Tenney has not conceded and her campaign did not respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday. Last week she acknowledged that the numbers didn't look good for her campaign.
"I don't think we have a chance of prevailing," Tenney said on WUTQ-FM radio. "I haven't had a chance to speak to Anthony yet. Of course, we will. My office will do everything it can to coordinate with him and make sure he has a smooth transition."
Tenney was an early and vocal supporter of Donald Trump and whose brash rhetoric had similarities to the president's.
Democrats complained when Tenney's staff sent out a memo attempting to link her Italian-American opponent to the mafia because of his father's legal work for organized crime figures years ago.
She called her own alma mater, Colgate University, which is in the district, a "left-wing crazy school" and circulated a petition calling for the imprisonment of Hillary Clinton. While defending gun ownership rights, Tenney said during in an interview that many people behind mass murders are Democrats.
Tenney, 57, argued that her comments were blown out of proportion by an adversarial media. But her rhetoric turned off some of the area's leading Republicans, including her predecessor, former Republican U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna, who called Tenney a "pariah" who is "full of anger and hate."
Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district, which includes dairy farms and struggling former manufacturing towns such as Binghamton and Utica. Voters there favored Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 16 percentage points.
Trump's margins in 2016 meant that to win the district, Brindisi had to appeal to independents and Republican moderates.
Republicans fought hard to defend Tenney. Trump, his son Eric and House Speaker Paul Ryan all visited the district to raise money or campaign.