John Lemondes has won the first of two races in his bid to succeed retiring state Assemblyman Gary Finch.
Lemondes, R-LaFayette, is the winner of the Republican primary in the 126th Assembly District. Cayuga County finished counting GOP absentee ballots and Lemondes added 668 votes, while fellow Republican candidate Danny Fitzpatrick netted 444.
With all of the absentee ballots counted in the four-county district, Lemondes finished with 57% (3,492 votes) to Fitzpatrick's 43% (2,622 votes).
"It feels wonderful," Lemondes said Tuesday. "All that means is now there's a harder hill to climb. It's time to listen and time to work hard."
Lemondes, a retired Army colonel who owns and operates Elly's Acres Farm in LaFayette, joined the state Assembly race a little over three months ago. He was a late entrant after Ken Bush III, who had the Republican, Conservative and Independence endorsements, dropped out of the race in late March.
The leaders of the three parties chose Lemondes to replace Bush on the ballot.
Fitzpatrick already filed to run in the GOP primary, so there was a contested race for the party's nomination. While Lemondes largely self-funded his campaign, Fitzpatrick outspent him and aired a pair of television commercials.
Despite Fitzpatrick's advantage, it was Lemondes who won the support of most Republican voters. After the early and election night votes were counted, Lemondes held a 614-vote lead over Fitzpatrick. He had an eight-point lead over Fitzpatrick in Onondaga County, their home county, and large leads in Chenango and Cortland counties.
Cayuga County padded Lemondes' lead. After the election night count, he led by a 2-to-1 margin over Fitzpatrick in one of the district's largest counties.
Lemondes didn't declare victory and Fitzpatrick didn't concede because there were thousands of absentee ballots to count. There wasn't a major shift in Chenango and Cortland counties, where Lemondes won by 14 and 21 points. Onondaga County finished counting absentees on Monday and while Fitzpatrick narrowed the gap, Lemondes still won the county by 15 votes.
Cayuga County remained a Lemondes stronghold once the absentee ballots were counted. He finished with 1,294 votes in the county to win it by a 64 to 36% margin.
Now that Lemondes has won the primary, his focus shifts to the general election. His opponent is Democratic nominee Dia Carabajal, an Auburn resident who previously served on the city council and school board.
Republicans have an enrollment advantage in the 126th. There are nearly 5,000 more active GOP voters than Democrats. There are more than 20,000 voters in the district who aren't affiliated with a party.
Throughout his campaign, Lemondes has been focused on four policy issues: Addressing population outmigration, the state's minimum wage, taxes and utility rates. Those will remain key pieces of his platform.
As he commences his general election campaign, he wants to appeal to Democrats in the district. He believes his Army experience, which he describes as an apolitical role, shows that he can represent the district without bias.
"I am going to do my hardest work with the Democrats," he said. "I'm going to put every bit of effort, energy and work into doing the right thing for the people of this district and New York state."
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.
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