- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 31, 2009

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A special election Tuesday in the state’s 20th Congressional District started with a sharply criticized, secretive appointment to the U.S. Senate and some believe it will end as a referendum on President Barack Obama and his economic policies.

Republican Jim Tedisco and Democrat Scott Murphy fought a bitter and expensive race on a compressed schedule to replace Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed by Gov. David Paterson in January to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Senate.

The election drew an unusual level of national attention, and both candidates had financial support from their national parties and political action committees _ mostly spent on increasingly negative television ads.

Yet polling places and local election boards reported light turnout through early afternoon. In Dutchess County _ at the southern end of the district near New York City _ an election commissioner said low turnout was expected in the off-cycle contest, even though voters were “bombarded” with campaign ads.

Republicans hoped a win would knock Obama off balance and put them back on the political map in the Northeast after two dismal cycles that saw them go from nine New York representatives before the 2006 elections to three after the 2008 vote. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has identified the race as one of the party’s top priorities for this year.

Democrats looked for the reassurance of a win in a recently Republican district less than 100 days after Obama took office and in the wake of his $787 billion stimulus package, which was criticized for a loophole allowing bonuses for executives of the bailed-out American International Group Inc. insurance company.

Each campaign raised more than $1 million. Murphy’s fundraising jumped sharply last week after Obama sent an e-mail urging people to support him and after the president’s image was used in a Democratic National Committee ad.

Since Friday, Murphy reported raising nearly $200,000, compared with Tedisco’s $58,000.

Outside money continued to pour in: Filings since Friday showed more than $89,000 was spent supporting Murphy, including $75,000 from the State Employees International Union 1199 Committee on Political Education. Tedisco supporters spent $15,000 in the same period.

Independent groups are spending more on Tedisco, with $1.6 million reported spent on ads, mailings and phone banks. That’s compared with more than $957,000 Murphy supporters have doled out.

Murphy, 39, is a venture capitalist multimillionaire from Columbia, Mo., who has lived in New York for more than a decade.

Tedisco, 58, is the GOP minority leader in the state Assembly. He’s been in politics for 27 years representing a mostly working-class district. He doesn’t live in the congressional district, an issue used by Democrats during the campaign.

The diverse district stretches from the rural Adirondack Mountains, just an hour south of the Canadian border, down to Dutchess County, about an hour north of New York City.

Pat Ginsberg, a Democrat who said she was in her 60s, voted Tuesday morning at the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site in Kinderhook, just southeast of Albany. Her vote for Murphy echoed one of the central themes in the race: “I wanted a Democrat because I wanted someone who backed Obama’s policies,” she said.

John Johnas, 62, an independent voting in the Rensselaer County town of Brunswick, said Obama’s policies didn’t figure in his decision to vote for Tedisco.

“I’ve always liked Jim. He’s at least from the area. I don’t know much about the other guy,” said Johnas.


Associated Press writer Jessica Pasko contributed to this report.


On the Net:

Jim Tedisco: https://www.jimtedisco.com/

Scott Murphy: https://www.scottmurphy09.com/

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