ALBANY—Since he is no longer the minority leader, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco must be present in his seat for his vote to be counted. And there he sat yesterday afternoon, taking the occasional call on his cell phone, chatting with a few colleagues, and glancing down to review the housing legislation currently before his chamber.
As I approached him on the floor to talk about his other project—his bid for Congress, which hinges on an ongoing recount—he asked if there had been any ruling from a judge on whether his campaign's objections to hundreds of absentee ballots will be sustained . (There hadn't been.)
He said he thinks the residency issue is "a question that needs to be settled." As he waits, he said he's staying strong: "We have no choice other than to keep doing what we're doing."
Things don't look good for his campaign at the moment.
In Saratoga and Warren counties, officials continued counting contested ballots in his Congressional race against Scott Murphy. Tedisco currently stands, officially, 273 votes behind Murphy. Nearly 1,800 objected ballots were objected to by one side or the other.
In Saratoga County, Tedisco gained about 30 votes, according to his attorney James Walsh. Bill Montfort, a Democratic elections commissioner in Warren County, said the newly counted ballots broke in Murphy's favor, but could not provide a specific number. Counting will resume today in those counties, as well as Washington County.
And a judge in Poughkeepsie is still ruminating over whether to sustain challenges to ballots based on residency and on the applications for absentee ballots.
Some Republicans have publicly thrown in the towel, and others sound as if they're preparing to do so.
The Washington Times quoted Tom Davis, the former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, saying "we've lost the special election in New York. It's gone."
Dan Isaacs, in telling Liz Benjamin he will run against weakened state Republican chairman Joe Mondello, explained, "We're not even the loyal opposition at this point. Tedisco appears not able to pull out a victory in an overwhelmingly Republican district; to me that's the final indignancy."
Tedisco told me he hadn't seen the Davis quote. "How can it be over? When you have an election, you count the votes," he said, without much of the usual energy in his voice.
"I think that we've moved from cautiously optimistic to cautious," Assemblyman Marc Molinaro, who campaigned for Tedisco, told me by phone. "I think we all recognize that a Tedisco win would require a good number of our party's objections to be sustained by the court. But that being said, whether we're positive or negative about the outcome, we want to see every vote counted and not declare a winner until that process is completed."
State Senator Betty Little—a Warren County Republican who vied against Tedisco for the nomination, and is related by marriage to Murphy—said the legal battle shouldn't drag on too much longer.
"I think he ought to do a good analysis of where he stands and what the possibilities of the outcome are; 273 votes, that's the biggest lead anybody's had in this race since it concluded," she said. "You can't drag this one out as long as you can drag out a November election, you have to look to constituents not being represented at this point. And with the stimulus, and the economy, and the things that we need to get done, we need somebody there to start working."
Democrats have been saying this—some allege Tedisco, who called for a swift special election, is being hypocritical—in a more scathing way. Larry Bulman, the Saratoga County Democratic chairman, told me: "This guy's represented by Paul Tonko. He's got someone fighting for his district; we need somebody fighting for ours."
Molinaro said counting the votes trumped that need.
"I live in the district. I want a congressman. I want it to be Jim Tedisco," he said. "If it's Mr. Murphy, I look forward to working with him. But as a resident of this district, I want to see every vote counted."
Tedisco, in a quiet voice, insisted that every vote should be counted. I asked him whether he remains optimistic about his prospects. He paused.
"We're hopeful," he said.