49th STATE SENATE DISTRICT — Donovan McRae has conceded the Democratic state Senate nomination to Thearse McCalmon in the wake of Tuesday’s primary, clearing the way for her to start the general election campaign against incumbent state Sen. James Tedisco.
“I had a quick conversation with her to congratulate her,” McRae said on Thursday. “I support her, we spoke about ways we put our efforts together, but it is still very much her show. I contended from start that this would be a respectful campaign, there’s not a whole lot we disagree about.”
McRae, of Schenectady, who didn’t announce his campaign until May but had the support of Schenectady County’s Democratic leadership, lost overwhelmingly on Tuesday to McCalmon, also of Schenectady.
Though absentee ballots have yet to be counted, the in-person voting results on Tuesday gave McCalmon 3,697 votes to 1,501 for McRae. McCalmon won by wide margins in all five counties entirely or partially in the 49th Senate District: Schenectady, Saratoga, Fulton, Hamilton and Herkimer.
Tedisco has been a leading figure in Capital Region Republican circles for decades and represents a heavily Republican state Senate district, but McCalmon has a record of taking on powerful political figures and challenging them from a progressive position, supporting such issues as universal health care.
McCalmon nearly beat Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy in the 2019 Democratic mayoral primary, and in March announced plans to challenge Tedisco.
“I would like to thank all of my supporters from the beginning, going well beyond the mayoral run,” McCalmon said in a released statement on Thursday. “They stuck by me, believed in me, and I’m honored that they want me to be their voice on the issues. I also want to thank Donovan McRae for taking part in our democratic process and stepping up for ‘change.'”
“As I continue to campaign through the district, I will highlight the people’s needs and amplify the voiceless,” she said. “I look forward to debating Tedisco on the issues and winning this November.”
The general election campaigns begin with a wide disparity in financial resources: McCalmon had about $5,000 in her campaign account just before the primary, while Tedisco had nearly $100,000 at the time of his last financial filing in January.
McCalmon’s press secretary, Paul Paterakis, said McCalmon connects well with people, and even though she is from Schenectady, knows the rural parts of the district from when she was campaign manager for Patrick Nelson in 2018. That year, Nelson ran in a Democratic primary for Congress in the 21st Congressional District.
“We think Tedisco is in for the toughest campaign of his life,” Paterakis said.
Tedisco served more than three decades in the state Assembly and at one point was that chamber’s minority leader. He has held the Senate seat since 2017.
Tedisco said it is critically important for upstate to have a strong voice that challenges New York City-focused Democratic state leadership. He said he is focused on helping constituents deal with the pandemic, trying to help small businesses re-open safely, advocating for constituents on unemployment, and seeking an investigation into the discharge of COVID-positive hospital patients into nursing homes.
“I’ll be running on my record and on being a strong voice as I’ve been for the residents of the 49th Senate District,” he said. “Nothing illustrates that better than that over four separate redistrictings, and several elections, I have been overwhelmingly re-elected by the support of the most important voices in our representative democracy, the voters.”
In 2018, Tedisco defeated Michelle Ostrelich of Niskayuna, then a political newcomer and now a member of the Schenectady County Legislature.
The Republicans have a voter enrollment advantage in the district, with 72,250 Republicans, 64,854 Democrats, and 48,917 voters not enrolled in a party.