Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Nuances Among North Country Voters In 2022

As we look ahead to Election Day 2024, it’s worth looking at the nuances of 2022 voting patterns across the Adirondack Park and North Country. 2022 saw a number of different candidates on the ballot and a close look at these races shows varying levels of enthusiasm for candidates of the same party and some apparent ticket splitting. Beyond the normal Republican-Democrat divide, the ballot question for the Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act showed even more nuances among North Country voters. Far from a monolith or a one-party state, the North Country shows differences across its communities and the candidates they back.

Most interesting, across the North Country and Adirondacks, were the showings of Governor Kathy Hochul and Senator Chuck Schumer, both Democrats, who were roundly defeated by their Republican challengers. Whereas, North Country and Adirondack counties have shown varied preferences for Democrats and Republicans in recent Presidential elections, Schumer and Hochul lost all 14 North Country Counties in 2022, from Oswego to Clinton, from Washington to St. Lawrence. The closest race for Hochul was Saratoga County, where she lost 53.6% to 46.3%, while the most lopsided was Lewis County, which she lost 80.5% to 19.4%. For Schumer, his closest race was in Essex County, which he lost by 140 votes, 50.2% to 49.2%. His biggest loss was also in Lewis County, which voted against him 70.8% to 28.8%.

Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s district runs widely across the North Country and includes the almost the entire Adirondack Park, except for small chunks in Oneida County and Saratoga County. Stefanik won big with 168,579 votes compared to Democrat Matt Castelli’s 116,421. She won huge in places like Lewis County 74.1% to 25.8%. She won in Herkimer County with 70.8% of the vote, Hamilton County with 67.3%, and Fulton County with 68.6%.

Despite her big victory overall, Stefanik won narrowly, by roughly 52% to 48% in Franklin and Warren counties, and Stefanik got beat in narrowly in Essex County, 7,967 to 7,642 votes, and in Clinton County, 14,011 to 13,611. Whereas in Clinton and Essex counties, Republican Joe Pinion squeaked out tight wins against Chuck Schumer, and Lee Zeldin won decisively against Kathy Hochul, Stefanik was defeated in both of these places. In these two counties, there were groups of voters who voted against Chuck Schumer and Kathy Hochul and Elise Stefanik.

Lee Zeldin, Republican candidate for Governor, won bigger in most counties than Stefanik did, for instance getting over 22,600 votes in St. Lawrence County compared to Stefanik’s 20,000, getting 9,180 in Franklin County to Stefanik’s 7,972. In Stefanik’s 21st Congressional District, Zeldin outscored Stefanik 185,489 to 168,579, which shows that nearly 17,000 folks in the North Country chose to vote for Republican Lee Zeldin in his challenge against Kathy Hochul, but did not vote for Stefanik. It’s worth noting, that more than 10% of North Country Republican voters said “no” to Stefanik.

While Republican’s won big across the North Country, with clean sweeps in race for Governor and Senator, and winning 9 of 11 counties in the race for Congress, races for State Senate and State Assembly saw wins by both Republicans and Democrats. Republican State Senator Dan Stec won his race handily against Democratic challenger Jean Lapper, 68,294 votes to 45,075. Stec tracked Zeldin’s totals closely and outpaced Stefanik in the counties that they share, such as Franklin, Clinton, Essex, and Warren. In Warren County, Stec received over 2,400 more votes than Stefanik’s total.

Despite clean sweeps by Republican candidates at the top of the ticket, two North Country Democrats won. Democratic Assembly Member Billy Jones won 30,375 votes over Republican challenger Stephen Chilton’s 17,931 votes. In the parts of his district where he represents whole counties, such as Franklin and Clinton counties, Jones strongly out-performed Senator Schumer and Governor Hochul. In Franklin County, Jones topped Schumer by almost 2,000 votes and Hochul by over 2,700. In Clinton County, Jones received 17,753 votes compared with 13,341 for Schumer and 11,894 for Hochul. Across the Jones’ 115th Assembly District, Jones received 30,375 total votes compared with Hochul’s 21,350.

Assembly Member Jones clearly has a much broader cross-over appeal than either Schumer or Hochul. In all of these elections, where it’s possible to compare whole counties in races, Jones was the top vote-getter in Clinton County, notching 17,753 votes, while Lee Zeldin was the top vote-getter in Franklin County with 9,180.

Farther south, Democratic Assembly Member Carrie Woerner defeated Republican David Catalfamo, 29,233 to 25,874. Woerner’s district includes parts of three counties – Warren, Washington, and Saratoga. Across Woerner’s 113th Assembly District, Governor Hochul lagged behind Woerner, receiving over 1,800 fewer votes. Republican Matt Simpson, who has most of Warren County in his district, and parts of Washington, Saratoga, and Fulton counties, ran unopposed in 2022.

One of the biggest contests in 2022 was the $3.2 Billion Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act. The Bond Act added another wrinkle to North Country and Adirondack Park voting. Whereas, as shown above, Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kathy Hochul got swept by their Republican opponents across all 14 counties in northern New York in 2022, the Bond Act won in 10 of these 14 counties, sometimes narrowly, and other times decisively by around 20 points.

The Bond Act was approved by wide 20% margins in Franklin, Clinton, Essex, Warren, and Saratoga counties. It won by a handful of points in St. Lawrence, Washington, Jefferson, and Oneida counties and lost in Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, and Fulton counties. All told, 20 counties, all of them in Upstate New York, voted “no” on the Bond Act. The Bond Act won handily across the state 3,522,141 votes to 1,686,300. On Election Day 2022, the Bond Act was the biggest winner in New York State. In county after county across the Adirondacks and North Country, the Bond Act won by much bigger margins than the leading candidates of either party.

What to make of all of this? It seems that in the North Country our voting patterns are as varied as our terrain, at least in some places. Billy Jones ran far ahead of other Democrats like Senator Schumer and Governor Hochul, and Elise Stefanik ran well behind other Republicans like Lee Zeldin and Dan Stec. The environmental Bond Act also won big across the North Country. As a group, or a region within a region, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, and Fulton counties are trending in a distinctly different direction than other places. They seem like outliers at this time, all voting much more intensely and reliably Republican than other areas.

As we head further into the 2024 election year, it’s worth noting that voting patterns in many parts of the Adirondack Park and North Country, unlike many other areas in the country, are not either red or blue, but pick and choose among the candidates, where voters split their tickets between the parties in ways that is becoming increasingly rare in American life.

Photo at top provided by the author.

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.

3 Responses

  1. John says:

    Not to hurt feelings but doesn’t this show how irrelevant those counties are? Schumer gets elected by people downstate who work jobs 12 months a year and whose taxes run the state. Stefanik votes against the budget but shows up with that big pair of scissors at the ribbon cutting.

  2. john McCormick says:

    The winner take all NYS electoral college scam steals my vote if I do not vote with the downstate folks. There are two progressive states that That allot there electoral votes by Congressional districts but that would never happen in downstate controlled New York state . Where are the all my god progressives on this issue

  3. Vanessa B says:

    Good article but I don’t like the close: “ where voters split their tickets between the parties in ways that is becoming increasingly rare in American life.” People all over do this. It’s great that folks in the NoCo do, but voters everywhere vote their values. Summarized this article could be: the vibe in the NoCo is trending red, but not exclusively MAGA (though totally MAGA in some areas) and with notable exceptions that unfortunately trend along income lines. So of course, let’s not stereotype, but it’s a lot different than much of the rest of NY.

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