- Associated Press - Saturday, September 10, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York state voters will decide several state Senate primaries on Tuesday - including some races that attracted a crowded field of candidates hoping to succeed a departing lawmaker.

The outcomes of Tuesday’s primary will decide the parties’ standard bearers this fall, when Democrats hope to retake control of the Senate.

While some of the races feature largely unknown candidates who face big obstacles in knocking off an incumbent, other contests are considered highly competitive as candidates vie for open seats. Several candidates, regardless of party, said frustration with long-time politicians and Albany’s insider culture are significant factors this year.

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SHAPING FIGHT FOR SENATE CONTROL

Currently, the Senate is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, with one seat vacant. The GOP leads the chamber because of a power-sharing arrangement with a faction of breakaway Democrats. But traditional Democrats hope to win enough seats in November to wrest control from Republicans. If they are successful Democrats will control both houses of the Legislature and hold the governor’s office.

While primary candidates say they are focused on Tuesday’s election they know a broader battle lies ahead in November, when Democrats plan an aggressive campaign for the Senate and Republicans mount a strong defense.

“It’s high stakes right now,” said longtime GOP Assemblyman James Tedisco, who is running for an open Senate seat. “When you have one party running anything they don’t have a tendency to listen. We need checks and balances.”

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LARGE GOP FIELD FOR FINGER LAKES SEAT

Five Republicans are seeking the seat of departing Republican Sen. Michael Nozzolio near the Finger Lakes. It’s a solidly Republican district, so the winner will be the favorite going into the general election.

“I think now that the seat is open, it’s a good opportunity for people to step up and to serve,” said Canandaigua Supervisor Pam Helming, who is running against Floyd Rayburn, Brian Manktelow, Jon Ritter and Sean Hanna in the five-way GOP contest. The winner faces Democrat Kenan Baldridge in November.

Helming said the top issues she hears about from voters include the economy, education, the heroin epidemic and Albany dysfunction.

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GOP CONTEST IN EASTERN NY DISTRICT

Another reliably Republican district that stretches from Schenectady to the Adirondacks will see Tedisco face off against Christian Klueg, the owner of a local real estate firm. The winner will face Democrat Chad Putman to replace longtime Republican Sen. Hugh Farley, who is retiring.

“Voters are ready for change,” Klueg said when asked what the voters he speaks to tell him. “We’re sick and tired of the career politicians.”

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DEMOCRATS LINE UP FOR MANHATTAN SEAT

In Manhattan, four Democrats seek the seat of Adriano Espaillat, who is running for Congress. They are Robert Jackson, Marisol Alcantara, Micah Lasher and Luis Tejada. Republican Melinda Crump, Conservative Party candidate John Toro and Green Party candidate Julia Willebrand will be on the November ballot. It’s an overwhelmingly Democratic district.

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DEMOCRATS VIE IN DOWNSTATE DISTRICT

In another heavily Democratic district that includes portions of the Bronx and Westchester County, five Democrats are competing for the seat formerly held by Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who resigned for a job in the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. They are Edward Mulraine, Jamaal Bailey, Alvin Ponder, Pamela Hamilton-Johnson and Que English. The winner faces a Conservative Party candidate in November.

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SWING DISTRICT NEAR BUFFALO IN PLAY

The fifth race to watch may be harder to predict. Two Democrats and two Republicans are each running in the state’s 60th District in the Buffalo area. Sen. Marc Panepinto, a Democrat, is not seeking re-election. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, but the seat has flipped back and forth in recent years.

Alfred Coppola and Amber Small are the two Democratic candidates. Chris Jacobs and Kevin Stocker are the two Republicans. The winners of the two primaries will face Green Party candidate James DePasquale in November.

Small, the director of a local community association, said voters tell her they’re frustrated with Albany’s insider politics and want leaders more focused on serving their own communities.

“The message is really clear: They don’t want a politician,” she said. “They’re sick of politics.”

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DISGRACED ASSEMBLY SPEAKER SHELDON SILVER’S SEAT UP FOR GRABS

The state Assembly has a number of primaries as well - perhaps most notably in the Manhattan district once represented by former Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, who was convicted of federal corruption charges last year. The woman who won his seat in a special election, Democratic Assemblywoman Alice Cancel, faces five Democrats in the primary.


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