The 2020 election cycle is finally over.
Former Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.) conceded Monday to his Republican challenger, former Rep. Claudia Tenney, ending a monthslong battle over the last unresolved congressional race.
The abrupt conclusion comes as somewhat of a surprise. After months of tabulation, New York State Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte last week ordered all eight counties in the upstate district to certify their results showing Tenney won the race by 109 votes. Brindisi was expected to appeal, but on Monday he said he would not.
“It is time to close the book on this election and focus on building a better community and more united Country for our children,” he said in a statement, congratulating Tenney and vowing to make “the transition process as smooth as possible.”
The race was a prolonged fiasco that revealed the shortcomings of New York’s decentralized election system, which relies heavily on local boards of elections. After leading by some 28,000 votes on election night, Tenney’s edge dwindled to just fewer than 50 votes as absentee ballots rolled in.
The process turned into a total disaster when several counties kept discovering boxes of uncounted absentee ballots and losing track of contested ballots that may have been incorrectly tallied. Election law clearly states that ballots with objections need to be clearly marked on the ballot — some counties were using sticky notes that fell off. In Oneida County, more than 2,000 voters were turned away because their applications were filed, but not processed by officials in time for Election Day.
Still, Brindisi called Tenney just hours after the state certified the election at noon on Monday. He said he would drop his legal appeals and end his call for a hand recount of the more than 300,000 ballots cast. His team said the campaign does not anticipate taking any further action, despite describing the process as flawed.
“Unfortunately, this election and counting process was riddled with errors, inconsistencies and systematic violations of state and federal election laws. My one disappointment is that the Court did not see fit to grant us a recount,” he said. “Sadly, we may never know how many legal voters were turned away at the polls or ballots not counted due to the ineptitude of the Boards of Election, especially in Oneida County. My hope is some authority steps in and investigates the massive disenfranchisement of voters that took place during this election.”
A continued legal battle could have drawn the race out for months, adding to confusion and unrest for the more than 700,000 residents in the district who have not been represented in the House for more than a month, since Brindisi’s term ended on Jan. 3.
Tenney first won the seat in 2016, replacing the now-late Republican Rep. Richard Hanna. Brindisi, a moderate Democrat, ousted Tenney in 2018, winning a district President Donald Trump carried by 16 points in his first election.
The rematch was among the most hotly contested of the 2020 cycle and saw millions in outside spending from both parties. The district spans Central New York and includes the cities of Utica and Binghamton. Democrats will control redistricting in the state and could attempt to craft a seat more favorable to Brindisi, should he choose to run again.
Tenney’s win brings the GOP to a net gain of a dozen seats last cycle. They are just five away from reclaiming the majority in 2022. Another bright spot for Republicans: Tenney is the 30th GOP women elected in 2020; they began the cycle with just 13.
New York’s 22nd district was not the only one with a razor-thin finish. An open House seat in Iowa was decided by just six votes, and the losing Democratic candidate, Rita Hart, has challenged now-Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ win to the House Administration Committee under the Federal Contested Elections Act.
That committee could choose to conduct its own recount to indicate who is the rightful winner of the seat. The National Republican Congressional Committee seized on Brindisi’s decision and turned up pressure the on Hart to drop her appeal.
“It’s time for Rita Hart to follow Anthony Brindisi’s lead,” said Mike Berg, an NRCC spokesperson, “concede that she lost, and let Congresswoman Miller Meeks focus on serving the people of Iowa’s Second Congressional District.”
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