CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — Tuesday night’s long election count caused more than a few furrowed brows and quiet whispers among the usually confident Clifton Park Republicans, but in the end the party retained the unanimous control it’s had of the Town Board for more than two decades.
Members of the local Republican party gathered at the Brick Tavern while Democrats did the same at Ravenswood Pub.
The race to fill two seats on the board pitted incumbent Republicans Amy Standaert and James Whalen against Democratic challenger Kerensa Rybak. It was the only contested race in southern Saratoga County.
The slow vote count from the town’s 34 election districts and Rybak’s steady hold on third place, just 50 votes behind Whalen at one point, put a damper on the night’s festivities at the Republican gathering for nearly two hours. But by 11 p.m. Whalen was able to gain enough votes on Rybak to spur a concession statement from her on Facebook.
In a town that has seen just one Democratic Party candidate elected to office in the past 20 years, the closeness of the race for the Town Board seat was a clear cause for concern.
The unofficial vote tallies with all 34 election districts reporting had Standaert with 4,771 votes, Whalen with 3,905 and Rybak with 3,490.
“I’m grateful for the voters support,” Standaert said. “I think it sends a very clear message that they trust in the decisions that we make looking forward into the future for Clifton Park and how we are able to do it in New York State.
"I think it was a closer race than we expected but when you’re facing name recognition that’s a key thing when it comes to voting; but we are proud of our record, proud of the results, and we’re looking forward to continuing to keep working hard for Clifton Park residents.”
Whalen acknowledged a close race had been expected.
“Certainly with national trends you have people very passionate about politics, one way or the other, and local races aren’t immune to national trends,” he said. “But, at the end of the day it’s a great team, I’m proud of the record we have, proud of the record we run on, and I enjoy campaigning. I’m looking forward to serving with these guys for another four years.”
When asked what he was most proud of during his time in office Whalen said it was 37-acre Town Center Park that is currently in the design stage.
“It’s important to this town and I’m proud to have been part of the process that helped to make it a reality,” he said. “I’ve said before that I think this is something that in generations to come people will look back at what this town has done and they’ll be very appreciative and grateful.”
Running uncontested for his 11th term was Town Supervisor Philip Barrett.
“We work hard each and every day to deliver results to make sure Clifton Park remains a special place,” he said. “We’re also pleased that we have a unique and strong position fiscally that allows us to consider each opportunity and we are fully prepared for anything that may happen in the future.”
In discussing the tightness of the board race Barrett noted that there were factors that had made it a different election year, such as early voting and that the Democrats had been smart to field a candidate with the same last name as well-liked and long-serving Town Justice Robert Rybak.
“Name recognition is important,” he said. “There was low turnout, early voting and one candidate attempting to run off the name recognition of a long term incumbent so it was a different election year, but in the end delivering results and insuring we have a low tax municipality that continues to be very strong is what is most important to Clifton Park residents.
In her concession statement Kerensa Rybak (no relation to Robert Rybak) thanked all those who supported her and promised it would not be the last the town sees of her.
“I don’t consider this a loss,” she wrote. “For the first time in recent history Clifton Park was given a choice and people were given hope for some changes. The fact that our numbers were so close might spur someone else to take the reins next time and go bigger and farther than I could.
"I will never stop pushing for change.”
Town Democratic Committee Chairman Pat Lyons, in a statement said, though the outcome was not the one his party wanted, he was proud the party had offered the community a choice.
“We feel the most important thing is for the voters in Clifton Park to have choices,” he said. “The town Democratic Party will continue to work to make sure those voters have a voice in the process.”
In the Town of Halfmoon Supervisor Kevin Tollisen won another term of office in one of five uncontested races in that town. In a statement after the polls closed Tollisen thanked the community for its continued support of him and his administration.
“I am humbled and honored to serve another term as Supervisor for the Town of Halfmoon,” he wrote. “We have made significant progress in Halfmoon and we are proud to have low taxes and great services, We have been diligent to provide realistic conservative budgets and invest in our infrastructure.
"On behalf of myself and my family and our entire Team thank you to all those who have supported our Team this year. We look forward to 2020.”
Halfmoon Republican Committee Chairman Tom Lundquist, in a statement, thanked residents for their continued support of Tollisen and the town's administration.
"Our candidates did run unopposed this year, this is due to the fact that our elected officials are working hard everyday for our residents," he said. "The leadership of Supervisor Kevin Tollisen, has and continues to move our town forward making Halfmoon a town were many families are moving to. They are moving here because our town is known as a great place to live, work and raise a family."