Byrne concedes; Russell wins 116th by a hair
Assemblywoman Addie Russell (D-116th) has been re-elected for her fourth term representing the 116th Assembly District also known as the "River District." The district includes parts of Jefferson and Watertown Counties. Her Republican challenger John Byrne conceded the race yesterday afternoon as the last absentee ballots were counted at the state Supreme Court in Watertown.
After weeks of counting absentee ballots, Russell and Byrne arrived in Watertown yesterday ready for a final answer in this long and very close race. Byrne had ended election night ahead of Russell by 117 votes. His lead declined as absentee ballots in Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties were counted in the following weeks. Coming into court yesterday, Russell had a 103 vote lead and she maintained a lead as the judge instructed the remaining absentee ballots counted.
Russell, from the Jefferson county town Theresa, has been the 116th District's assemblywoman for the past six years. Byrne is a businessman who lives in Cape Vincent and has served on the town council there for three years.
By early afternoon, Byrne says it became clear that the odds were not in his favor. Byrne shook Assemblywoman Addie Russell's hand to concede in the race. He says he's relieved this long process is finally complete.
"The voters had their voices heard. We felt like we ran a good race. We gave the voters an option. They made their choice and now we respect that and move forward," said Byrne.
A little over a hundred of the contested absentee ballots were from Cape Vincent, where Byrne lives. Many expected Byrne to win his town in a sweep, thinking that would close his gap with Russell. But when the count was over it wasn't enough. Byrne says his team put a lot of effort into courting absentee voters.
"It's amazing we thought we did but we didn't work them hard enough. We send them letters and all that good stuff but obviously it wasn't enough," said Byrne.
Russell battled against a huge backlash in the North Country to the SAFE Act gun control law, which she voted for. She also was swimming against a massive Republican wave that engulfed many incumbent Democrats across the country. Russell says the low voter turnout didn't help.
"The Democrats were not voting as strongly as they might have, People on every side of my race kind of expected that it being a three way race I wouldn't have any problem. and usually low turnout tends to favor Republicans. I think that is what happened in this race," said Russell.
Russell says she is proud of running a race based on her record and will continue serving her constituents. Russell is now the only Democrat in the North Country in either the Assembly and Senate in Albany.