Every vote counts: New York’s history of close elections

Daniel Patrick Moynihan in March of 1976
Daniel Patrick Moynihan in March of 1976
Trikosko, Marion S. / Public domain
Daniel Patrick Moynihan in March of 1976.

Every vote counts: New York’s history of close elections

State and local elections often come down to a handful of votes.
July 23, 2019

The Queens district attorney race is still too close to call, with Melinda Katz leading Tiffany by a mere 15 votes. That gap between the establishment-backed Katz, the Queens borough president, and Cabán, a public defender and a darling of the progressive movement, will likely shift depending on the results of an ongoing recount, but it's already one of the closest races in New York in recent memory. Here is a guide to some of the previous close elections in the state.

Teddy Roosevelt, 1898

The Rough Rider narrowly won the race for governor in 1898, defeating opponent Augustus Van Wyck by just over 17,000 votes out of more than 1.3 million cast. Roosevelt didn’t stay in Albany for too long, however – he served one two-year term before being elected vice president in 1900.

Averell Harriman, 1954

A famed presidential staffer to Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and later John F. Kennedy, Harriman defeated his Republican opponent, the alliteratively named Irving Ives, to become the 48th governor of New York with a margin of just over 11,000 votes out of 5 million. Unfortunately for Harriman, he lost his reelection race to Nelson Rockefeller in 1958, and the margin wasn’t as close.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, 1976

Moynihan is one of New York’s most famous senators, but he nearly didn’t make the cut when he first ran for office in 1976. He and famous feminist Rep. Bella Abzug duked it out in the Democratic primary, and Moynihan won the primary by little more than one percentage point. He later creamed his Republican opponent, James Buckley, and was reelected three times before he was succeeded by Hillary Clinton in 2001.

Chris Collins, 2012

The bruising race between Democratic incumbent Rep. Kathy Hochul and businessman Chris Collins resulted in an extremely tight election. Collins defeated Hochul by just over one point. Although Hochul went on to become the lieutenant governor under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the governor indicated that he wanted her to seek a rematch against Collins in 2018.

Cecilia Tkaczyk, 2012

In the last round of redistricting, a new state Senate seat in the Albany area was created, and it was allegedly tailor-made for Republican Assemblyman George Amedore. However, he narrowly lost the race to Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk, who ended up with a 19-vote lead after a recount that went into January. While Democrats had won a numerical majority that year, they didn’t take power thanks to IDC power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans. And in 2014, Amedore won the seat from Tkaczyk.

Louise Slaughter, 2014

In 2014, longtime Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter faced a challenge from Gates Supervisor Mark Assini. The election was the closest of Slaughter’s career – she won by a margin of 869 votes. She defeated Assini again in 2016 by a larger margin, and was planning to run for reelection again in 2018 before her death in March.

John Brooks, 2016

Brooks, a Democrat, officially won his race five weeks after Election Day in 2016. Brooks won the 8th state Senate District on Long Island by 258 votes, defeating Republican incumbent state Sen. Michael Venditto in an upset victory.

Bob Holden, 2017

In New York City, it’s rare for an incumbent council member to be defeated, and rarer still for an incumbent Democrat to be defeated by a Republican. Nevertheless, the unusual occurred in the 2017 citywide elections, when Bob Holden defeated incumbent Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. Holden, a registered Democrat, had run on the Republican line after losing to Crowley in the Democratic primary. He ultimately defeated her with a margin of 137 votes.

-with reporting by Grace Segers

City & State
20191119