The 21st Congressional District will continue to be represented by Democrats, a more than five-decade tradition with Paul Tonko's Election Day victory. Tonko defeated Republican Jim Buhrmaster by a large margin, garnering 149,377 votes versus Buhrmaster's 89,502. Phil Steck, who challenged Tonko in the Democratic primary, earned 7,214 votes on the Independence Party line.
Tonko will fill the seat to be vacated by Democrat Michael McNulty, who has held the position for 20 years and will be retiring in January.
Tonko ran on the Democratic and Working Families lines, with Buhrmaster on the GOP and Conservative lines in the district that contains all of Albany, Montgomery, Schenectady and Schoharie counties, as well as parts of Fulton, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties.
I give him credit for involving us in the debates, said Josh Hills, Jim Buhrmaster's spokesman, of Tonko.
The announcement of Tonko's win came in around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4, to a crowded room of supporters at Mallozzi's Banquet House in Rotterdam.
"I'm flattered and moved by your show of support here. I look forward to serving the 21st Congressional District," said Tonko. "I'm very proud that we ran a totally positive campaign. We didn't resort to gimmicks or bashing anyone."
Tonko touched on his plans for Congress, including focusing on the economy, bringing troops home from Iraq and universal health care. He said he hopes to use his background in engineering and energy to help solve national energy issues and spark local economy.
"It's a personal sense of accomplishment. Paul Tonko is passionate about his community. He'll help execute Barack Obama's mandate. He reinforces that we can have good people in government," said Shawn Chin-Chance, a Tonko volunteer.
Tonko, a Rotterdam native, represented the 105th District in the New York State Assembly, beginning in 1983, for nearly 25 years before leaving to become president and CEO of NYSERDA, where he worked until his resignation to run for U.S. Representative. He won the primary two months ago against four other Democratic candidates. The district has a majority of registered Democrats, totaling 163,929, and 110,482 registered Republicans. According to New York State's Board of Elections, there are 398,873 registered voters in the district.