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A tough night for anti-fracking candidates

Matt Richmond

From the region's congressional races to town board elections, candidates that ran at least partially on their opposition to hydrofracking in the Southern Tier had a tough night on Tuesday.

After the break, a rundown of races where fracking played a role.

Tom Libous' race for the Binghamton state senate seat and Donna Lupardo's for the state assembly aren't included because the two incumbents won easy races.

23rd Congressional District

Democratic challenger Nate Shinagawa gave incumbent Tom Reed a run for his money. The race came down to about 10,000 votes, with a big win for Reed in Steuben, his home county, making much of the difference.

Shinagawa is a Tompkins County legislator and works in the health care industry who has spoken out against hydrofracking while Reed is a fiscal conservative who won a seat in the house during the 2010 Tea Party wave.

The 23rd is a new district, with the more liberal Tompkins County, the only county that Shinagawa won, outweighed last night by the more conservative Southern Tier counties that make up most of the district.

22nd Congressional District

In another product of redistricting, Republican Richard Hanna beat Dan Lamb. Like Shinagawa, Lamb was endorsed by New York Residents Against Drilling (NYRAD) and was running against an incumbent whose district was redrawn.

Lamb was an adviser to retiring Congressman Maurice Hinchey, oversaw Hinchey's Binghamton office and was never seen as having much of a chance in a district widely viewed as securely Republican.

Broome County Executive

Among Southern Tier anti-fracking campaigners, this was one of the more closely watched races.

Democratic challenger Tarik Abdelazim describes himself as strongly opposed to fracking, has a background as a community organizer, worked in the economic development office of Binghamton mayor Matt Ryan and challenged staunch drilling supporter Debbie Preston.

There were loud groans at the election night Democratic Party gathering in Binghamton when the results of this race came up.

Preston beat Abdelazim 62 to 37, a defeat that could be explained by a 0% tax increase in this year's budget or a superior Republican operation in Broome County, whatever it was, no one at the election night party expected such a sound defeat.

Broome County legislature

Those were the three big races in the region. Among endorsements in the county legislature, the anti-fracking candidates fared better, but three wins and four losses still left the legislature in Republican hands.

Town boards

Right now, the governor and the state senate may hold the most power over whether fracking comes to New York. But for drilling opponents in the Southern Tier, the hope was that a change in town boards could hold fracking at bay.

That hope comes from state courts, which haveupheld the power of town boards to ban drilling within their borders.

In a press release by Concerned Citizens of Broome County, the group, formed shortly before the election, announced that it will push for a transformation of the local political landscape:

“Over the past several months, residents in several towns awoke to find that their town boards had passed late night resolutions in support of horizontal hydrofracking with little public notice or input,” said Brian Stevens, member of the Town of Sanford Concerned Citizens and candidate for Sanford Town Supervisor. “Those with hundreds of acres, who stand to make millions of dollars off of fracking are not the majority in our community, and yet they hold all the power."

Stevens ran against Sanford Supervisor Dewey, whose farm, DewDec, is the site of a proposed Marcellus well applied for by XTO Energy in October. Stevens lost the race 661 - 219.

In Vestal, another town likely to see fracking if it is approved by Albany, anti-fracking candidate Paul Logalbo narrowly lost to incumbent Steve Millkovich.

Another race that saw candidates fly the anti-fracking flag was the Town of Union. The three candidates endorsed by NYRAD - two for council and one for supervisor - all lost to two incumbents and the acting supervisor.

So what to make of a the disappointing showing? First, there were no exit polls, but it's a safe assumption that jobs and taxes were a higher priority than fracking to most voters.

No one expected the political landscape to be overturned in one election. But there is little doubt that, if this election was a referendum on hydrofracking, it's either not a big concern to most people or a welcomed source of economic development.

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