For months it had been characterized as the closest, most expensive state legislative race in the country. The two-term Democratic state senator faced a challenge from a popular Republican city councilman in a newly redrawn district that is far more perilous for a Democrat. These two men shared the same political base and both served the same community in City Hall and in many cases, had the same supporters.
But in the end, the incumbent came out on top — and it was not even close.
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) declared victory Tuesday night and less than 12 hours later, Ulrich called him to concede. Addabbo will represent the 15th state Senate District for a third term in Albany next year.
“This morning I called Joe Addabbo to congratulate him on a decisive victory and pledged to work with him to unite our community,” Ulrich said on Twitter Wednesday morning. “This was a hard-fought campaign and while I truly appreciate the strong support I received on Election Day, it’s time to get back to work.”
Speaking to supporters at Woodhaven House in Middle Village Tuesday night, Addabbo, dressed down after spending the day helping in hurricane-ravaged parts of the district, made reference to his opponent’s money advantage.
“It’s not about the money. It’s not about the billboards, it’s not about the commercials, it’s not about the mailers,” he said. “It’s about heart. There’s a lot of heart in this room.”
According to unofficial results reported by NY1 on Wednesday, Addabbo was ahead of Ulrich 57 percent to 43 percent — a margin of just under 10,000 votes — with 100 percent of precincts reporting.
Addabbo had been slightly favored in the closing days of the race, especially after Hurricane Sandy devastated the southern portion of the district, which is strongly Republican and was a base of support for Ulrich.
But a 10,000-vote margin would have been hard to make up, even if there had been a bigger turnout in GOP strongholds in Rockaway.
Hurricane Sandy made voting difficult for residents in the Rockaways and Howard Beach, all considered bases of support for Ulrich. Before the election, the Ulrich campaign accused Democrats of trying to suppress the vote by moving polling locations in hardest hit areas to sites that Ulrich claimed were difficult to get to for some of his supporters, specifically Orthodox Jews in Far Rockaway. In response, Gov. Cuomo issued an executive order allowing displaced voters to vote anywhere in the state.
Addabbo was first elected in 2008, defeating Republican incumbent Serphin Maltese and held on to the seat in 2010 against former Councilman Anthony Como.
Redistricting earlier this year added some heavily Republican areas to the district, including the western Rockaway Peninsula, neighborhoods of Belle Harbor and Breezy Point and Orthodox Jewish areas in Kew Gardens and Far Rockaway.
Republicans and outside-interest groups poured millions of dollars into the race for Ulrich, while Addabbo was strongly supported by New York State United Teachers and received endorsements from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and former Mayor Ed Koch.
The 15th District is the most Republican in the borough and besides the Rockaways and Kew Garden Hills, it includes Forest Hills, Rego Park, Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale, Woodhaven, Ozone Park and Howard Beach.