For the second time this year, Republican Robert Castelli has scored a stunning upset victory against State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Castelli was first elected to the State Assembly in an upset victory in February that was called “a shot across the bow to Sheldon Silver.” Not one to let a shot go un-answered, Silver pulled out all the stops this fall to regain a seat that political pundits said would take herculean efforts by Castelli to retain.
Against all odds, Castelli has retained the 89th Assembly District seat, winning a narrow, yet historic victory for a full term.
“It has been a long fight to retain this seat, but the honor of serving the people of the 89th Assembly District is well worth the effort put forth to win,” Castelli said.
In court today, New York State Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler denied a motion by Castelli’s opponent to block certification of the race and order a manual hand recount of all ballots in the 89th Assembly District. Justice Adler also ordered the Westchester County Board of Elections to certify the race with Castelli as the winner.
While the race made few headlines against the more dramatic contests for State Senate and Congress, a grassroots campaign was waged on the ground by Mr. Castelli, a Vietnam veteran, retired state trooper and college professor known throughout a career in local government for reaching across the aisle to build consensus on important issues.
He quietly racked up over 200 endorsements from media outlets, local police, emergency services and other unions, and major environmental organizations, while sticking to his message of reforming Albany, shrinking government, and cutting spending and taxes.
On Election Day, this strategy nearly paid off, and going late into the night, Castelli held a slim lead of +72 votes with a turnout that was one of the highest in the State for an Assembly Race.
After a count and recount that lasted over five weeks, the Board of Elections today certified the race, stating that Castelli won race with 21,263 votes to 21,151 votes for his opponent.
Home to such prominent Democrats as Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo, former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, attorney Bobby Kennedy, Jr., and MoveOn.Org founder George Soros, until recently, New York’s 89th Assembly District was considered solid Democratic territory, and was gerrymandered to contain 10,000 more enrolled Democrats than Republicans. The district voted 61% for President Obama in 2008.
In February, when a special election was called to fill the seat after a vacancy, News12 political analysts pointed out that Republicans had “no business playing in a seat like this.” At the time it had been held by Democrats for seventeen years.
Democrat leaders in Albany expected the seat to return to them this fall, especially since Castelli held only two “major party lines,” Republican and Conservative, after they secured the third line for their own candidate.
Undeterred by theses factors, Castelli, the newly-elected Assemblyman, faced off against White Plains City Council President Thomas Roach, a nine year incumbent, who outspent Castelli at a rate of nearly two-to-one.
“I expected this to be a hard race, and went into it without any illusions,” Castelli said. “We needed to fight for every single vote, and we did, and the end result was a victory.”
In addition to receiving over $100,000 from Sheldon Silver’s Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee (DACC) and Silver’s Speaker PAC spent to regain the seat, Mr. Roach also raised close to $75,000 on his own.
Even as he went head to head with Silver for the second time in only eight months, Castelli and his opponent managed to maintain a civil discourse throughout the campaign. Roach called Castelli earlier this afternoon to concede.
Perhaps most significantly, Castelli’s victory gives the Republican Assembly Minority fifty seats in the Assembly Chamber, leaving them only one away from breaking Silver’s stranglehold over the State Assembly which has earned Albany its famous moniker for dysfunction.
With the outcome of one other Assembly race in Dutchess County still to be determined where Republican challenger Thomas Kirwan holds a slim lead, it is now eminently possible that the Republican Assembly Minority will go into 2011 with fifty-one members, meaning that the Speaker will need at least one Republican vote to override a Gubernatorial Veto, as well as enact certain procedural motions pursuant the rules of the Assembly.
“I congratulate my opponent on a hard fought race and the civil discourse and debate that was the hallmark of our race, and look forwards to working with him once again for the betterment of the people of White Plains and the 89th Assembly District,” Castelli said. “I also look forward over the next two years to working with my friends across the aisle to achieve meaningful reforms in State Government, and in some small way, to restore the tarnished reputation of those who hold public office in Albany.”
According to the official statement of votes cast in Westchester County at the General Election of November 2nd 2010, for the office of Member of the Assembly 89th District that appeared in the Westchester County Board of Elections Statement of Canvass that was transmitted to the New York State Board of Elections, the final results are as follows:
Thomas M. Roach, Dem. received: 19,100
Robert J. Castelli, Rep. received: 18,851
Thomas M. Roach, Ind. received: 995
Robert J. Castelli, Con. received: 2,347
Thomas M. Roach, Wor. received: 1,056
Robert J. Castelli, Tax. received: 65