Steve Saland's three-decade-long legislative career hung in the balance Wednesday as unofficial results in the hard-fought 41st District state Senate race showed him trailing Democrat Terry Gipson by 1,600 votes.
With all 269 precincts counted, Gipson had nearly 44 percent to Saland's 42 percent. Conservative candidate Neil Di Carlo won 14 percent of the vote. Still to be counted were 6,000 absentee ballots in Dutchess County, but Gipson's campaign said Wednesday morning that they believed his lead was insurmountable in the three-way high-profile race.
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"We're moving forward and declaring victory because we have a lot of work to do," said Brian Keeler, Gipson's campaign spokesman. "We need to put principle before politics here. The last thing we want to do is have some kind of political maneuvering hold up having a representative in Albany for the people of this district."
As of midday, it wasn't clear if Saland would concede and his campaign couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Gipson, 49, is a village of Rhinebeck trustee and owner of a graphic-design company. He campaigned on the idea of bringing a fresh voice to Albany. In a statement to supporters early Wednesday, Gipson declared victory.
"I look so forward to working with each and every one of you to reduce the cost of living, to create good jobs here in the Hudson Valley, to improve our education system, to continue to make sure that we all have access to good, affordable health care, and start moving this state forward in a new direction with a new plan," he said.
Saland, 68, was one of four GOP senators who broke ranks and voted to legalize same-sex marriage. The move cost him the Conservative Party endorsement for his re-election bid, but won him an endorsement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, before the general election.
Brewster native Di Carlo, 43, works for a Manhattan securities company. He enjoyed the support of the Tea Party movement and other conservative Republicans, almost defeating Saland for the GOP's nomination in the primary election.
Political observers say Di Carlo likely cost Saland the election by siphoning away thousands of conservative votes.
The 41st District covers most of Dutchess County and parts of Putnam County. Previously, it had included most of Dutchess and a huge swath of Columbia County.
District 40: Ball leading Wagner
Meanwhile, in one of the Hudson Valley's most heated contests, state Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson) appeared to defeat challenger Justin Wagner with a vote tally of 53,230 to 49,281 with 248 of 278 precincts reporting.
"It's been a great race focused on the issues," Ball said. "I'm happy, extremely happy with my supporters. It's been a good fight. If you are a Republican fighting for working values and blue collar people, you can win."
However, Wagner's camp refused to admit defeat.
"The race is too close to call," said Wagner's campaign manager Steve Napier in a statement. "While all of the traditionally high-performing Republican areas have been fully counted, results in much of the traditionally Democratic areas of Westchester County have yet to be reported. We will pursue a full and fair count of all ballots."
A former Assemblyman, Ball, 35, won his Senate seat two years ago by a margin of 2,000 votes. Statewide redistricting of legislative seats this year made the 40th District, which sprawls over Putnam County and parts of Westchester and Dutchess counties, slightly more Democratic.
Ball campaigned on keeping the Republican majority in the Senate to promote job creation and as a bulwark against tax hikes. Wagner, 31, a Croton-on-Hudson attorney, repeatedly attacked Ball for floating proposals that he said garnered headlines but weren't realistic, as well as what he called Ball's "childish" campaign tactics.