SARATOGA SPRINGS–At the Holiday Inn, the gathering point for Chris Gibson’s congressional campaign Election Night, an energized and confident crowd of supporters grew to around a thousand people after the polls closed. As the clock approached 11 p.m. and campaign results flashed across large screens, the precincts reporting climbed steadily, rising from 60 to over 70%, with Mr. Gibson’s early lead still holding.
A campaign aide announced a lead of 16,000 votes, telling the supporters of the Kinderhook native and retired army colonel, “It’s impossible for Murphy to win.” A short time later, Scott Murphy, the first-term Democrat from Glens Falls made his concession speech at the nearby Gideon Putnam Hotel and then Congressman-elect Gibson emerged amid an explosion of photo flashes, applause and a roar of approval.
Official numbers were not available Wednesday, but the Times Union newspaper in Albany reported that with 629 of 634 precincts reporting the voting machine count showed Mr. Gibson winning by 122,314 to 98,489 from Mr. Murphy. Absentee ballots will not be counted, but unlike a year and a half ago, when Mr. Murphy won the seat in a special election by fewer than 800 votes, the outcome was not in doubt.
“I want to thank the voters of the 20th District for entrusting me with the responsibility to represent you,” Mr. Gibson said, as he struggled to maintain his composure. He thanked his wife, Mary Jo, his children, Katie, Maggie and Connor, his large, extended family, and his 1,200 campaign volunteers for their dedication, hard work and support. He remembered the troops of the 82nd Airborne Battalion he commanded in Iraq and Haiti, and wished Mr. Murphy well.
“It ‘s going to be the responsibility of the new Congress to alter this environment,” said the congressman-elect, referring to the economy, tax structure, regulations and high healthcare costs he decried during his campaign, calling many government programs “hostile to growth.” He said that the federal budget can be balanced without raising taxes and that if lawmakers listen to small business owners, like Scott Murphy, they will lead the way out of the recession.
The newly elected representative for the district that includes all of Columbia County echoed President Obama in his support for rebuilding infrastructure and reiterated his enthusiasm for new energy initiatives, especially for new nuclear power plants here in the 20th District and also for alternative sources of energy.
He spoke in favor of a “rapid and successful conclusion to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need to defeat al-Qaida, and promised to protect Second Amendment rights. He also promised to co-sponsor a bill to legalize “reciprocity,” the right of gun owners to take their firearms across state lines.
“Lets learn from the lessons of history,” urged Mr. Gibson, who holds a Ph.D. degree from Cornell University. “The last time we had a Democratic President and a Republican Congress, we not only balanced the budget, we had surpluses, and had meaningful welfare reform. So we need to reach out and work together and not think about who gets the credit or partisan advantage. Our best days are still in front of us,” he said.
“Chris, Chris, Chris, Chris, . . .” chanted the crowd as the candidate stepped off the platform to greet well-wishers.
Earlier in the evening workers with the Murphy campaign could be found at the Gideon Putnam Hotel a 10-minute drive from the Gibson gathering. The mood at the hotel subdued. A smaller crowd, including TV news crews waited as a few campaign workers filtered in just after the polls closed.
Saratoga is the most populous part of the 20th district, which, in addition to Columbia County, stretches from the center of the Adirondacks to the middle of Dutchess County, with a spur that reaches through the Catskill Mountains.
Mr. Murphy won the seat in a special election in early 2009 after Kirsten Gillibrand (D) was appointed to the U.S. Senate to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Ms. Gillibrand, who has a home in Greenport, ran very well in the county as she did all across the state, according to preliminary results.
Voter registration in the 20th District overall gives Republicans a substantial edge. In Columbia County early returns with only about 20% of precincts reporting, showed Mr. Gibson winning here. Democrats hold a narrow plurality in voter registration in the county, though independent voters comprise the third largest bloc.