ALBANY, N.Y. — Republican Claudia Tenney prevailed Friday over Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi in the first official count in the nation’s only congressional race still undecided — a contest that promises to drag out even further.
More than three months after Election Day and a messy recanvassing of several ballot categories, a New York state judge ordered all eight counties in the 22nd Congressional District to certify their counts, which show Tenney won the drawn out rematch by 109 votes.
Disarray, but not fraud: State Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte criticized local elections boards for what he said were “systemic violations of state and federal election law” that affected both parties. But that’s up to the state board of elections, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the U.S. Department of Justice to handle, not his court, he said. He also noted that for all the errors, there was no fraud.
“Every single valid vote that was cast in New York’s 22nd Congressional District has been accounted for, and counted,” he wrote.
Though Brindisi’s legal team has indicated he will appeal one or more of the rulings that have been issued over the past 90 days, the certification paves the way for Tenney to reclaim the seat in the House of Representatives she held for a single term before Brindisi’s “blue wave” victory in 2018.
A Tenney win would bring the number of GOP women in the House to an even 30. The caucus had just 13 at the end of the 2018 cycle. Her win would also put House Republicans just five seats away from reclaiming the majority in 2022.
The Hail Mary: DelConte on Friday was considering a last-minute ask from Brindisi to hold off ordering a certification of the vote counts. Brindisi’s lawyers argued that irreparable harm could occur if a future decision from an appellate court changed the winner of the election after Tenney had already been seated in Congress. A state appellate court could recommend the House make the change, but ultimately the decision would be made at the federal level, stripping Brindisi of a final decision from New York courts, his attorney Bruce Spiva said.
Tenney’s lawyers said that because there is a way for the House to unseat a member, if warranted, the harm cannot not classify as irreparable.
DelConte ultimately said Brindisi’s request to prevent the certification would require stronger evidence that any decision would be entirely irreversible.
“I’ve been asked to stop the election, not stay an order of mine, but stop the election and that’s a very high burden,” he told lawyers on Friday.
No final score yet: The order for a finalized count lays the path for Tenney to take the seat. But Brindisi’s team said they are prepared to appeal rulings on several hundred contested ballots that DelConte had said were not legally cast. They are still reviewing the order to decide where on state or federal levels they will make their case for pursuing a complete hand audit.
Ally Mutnick contributed to this report.