Absentee count

Michael Cuevas, a lawyer for state Senate challenger Kathy Marchione, examines an absentee ballot in Fort Edward Thursday as Senator Roy McDonald’s campaign manager Jim Thompson and observer Don McPhee look on. Washington County and Rensselaer County started the absentee ballot count that could decide which candidate holds the Republican line in November's general election. Saratoga County and Columbia County start counting absentee ballots on Monday.

By Jon Alexander

FORT EDWARD -- Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione’s lead over state Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, in the race for the Republican line in November’s general election for the 43rd Senate District grew by four votes on Thursday, after absentee ballots in Washington County and Rensselaer County were tallied.

Marchione, who already held a 106-vote lead coming in to Thursday, bested McDonald in absentee ballots in Rensselaer County by a 154-151 vote and in Washington County by 11 to 10.

The absentees apparently give Marchione a solid Rensselaer County victory, even though that county was considered a McDonald stronghold by both campaigns.

“We’re very excited and ready for Saratoga County and Columbia County,” said Marchione spokesman Ken Giardin. “Kathy won on primary day and we fully expected to win on the absentees.”

Four hundred of the 984 total absentee ballots registered in the 43rd District GOP primary are from Saratoga County, making it likely that the home county of both candidates will decide who gets the important Republican ballot line in November.

The primary contest was too close to call after the polls closed last week, with Marchione ahead by 106 votes. The McDonald campaign will need a stronger-than-usual showing in the two counties yet to count their absentees to topple Marchione’s lead following Thursday’s absentee results.

But the McDonald campaign remained confident that the gap could still be closed, with Saratoga County and Columbia County absentee counts beginning Monday.

“We had an aggressive absentee ballot program,” said McDonald’s Campaign Manager Jim Thompson Thursday.

Staff from both campaigns said it could take up to three days to count the absentees in Saratoga County.

Absentee counts usually reflect the margins of the regular vote in a given election.

Both candidates have secured third-party lines for November. Marchione locked up the Conservative Party line in last week’s primary and McDonald will appear on the Independence Party line.

Marchione has maintained she’ll run as a third-party candidate if she loses the Republican primary.

McDonald’s camp had remained quiet over the two-term incumbent’s plans if he falls to his more conservative challenger. But Thompson said Thursday McDonald will run as a third-party candidate if he loses the Republican primary.

McDonald’s support last year for gay marriage angered area conservatives and is widely credited for spurring Marchione’s challenge. That position also won him the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the national LGBT community.

His pledge to remain in the race, regardless of the absentee outcome, could affect the bid of Democratic candidate Robin Andrews, who could otherwise be poised to receive the cash from the LGBT community that has so far flooded into McDonald’s accounts.

But that didn’t worry the Andrews campaign.

“Robin is not concerned with who ends up winning the Republican primary, because at the end of the day, Robin is the best candidate among the three,” said Colin Brennan, Andrews’ campaign manager.

A “handful” of the absentees were challenged by one of the two camps, primarily for technical reasons, such as not being properly filled out.

The validity of those ballots will be reviewed in state Supreme Court if the race is close enough that they could make a difference.

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