New York's 20th congressional district election, 2006

New York's 20th congressional district election, 2006
New York's 20th congressional district election, 2006
New York
2004 ←
November 7, 2006 (2006-11-07)
→ 2008

  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.jpg John e sweeney.jpg
Nominee Kirsten Gillibrand John E. Sweeney
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 125,168 110,554
Percentage 53.1% 46.9%

Representative before election

John E. Sweeney

Elected Representative

Kirsten Gillibrand

The New York 20th congressional district election for the 110th Congress was held on November 7, 2006. Incumbent John E. Sweeney was the nominee for the Republican Party, while attorney Kirsten Gillibrand was the nominee for the Democratic Party. Gillibrand defeated Sweeney with 53% of the vote.

Another candidate, Morris Guller, attempted to run in the general election on the Liberal Party line and also tried to contest Kirsten Gillibrand in the September Democratic primary, but did not file petitions for either nomination. Eric Sundwall filed petitions to run as the Libertarian candidate but was removed from the ballot when his petitions were ruled inadequate.



Incumbent John Sweeney was running for reelection, although a newspaper reported in March 2006 that "Speculation has mounted over the past week regarding U.S. Rep. John Sweeney’s future. Rumors are flying that the Clifton Park Republican might not seek re-election this fall. Between his health, his son’s guilty plea to assault charges, a serious Democratic challenger, the DOJ pulling his financial filings and the Congressional Winter Challenge uproar,[1] Sweeney is under a lot of stress and has been for a while".[2]

No Republican filed to challenge Sweeney, although there was speculation earlier in 2006 that Alexander Treadwell of Lake Placid, Essex County, a Republican political leader and an ally of Governor George E. Pataki, would do so. State Senator Elizabeth Little of Queensbury, Warren County, had also been mentioned as a possible Republican contender should Sweeney not run.

Over 40% of Sweeney's funding in this election cycle was from political action committees (PACs).[3]


The Democratic nominee was Kirsten Gillibrand, a native of Albany, who lives in Hudson. She had faced a primary challenge from three other Democratic candidates (computer engineer Edwin Pell, retired probation officer Douglas Walters, and activist Morris Guller), but all three dropped out of the race prior to the filing deadline.

Gillibrand supports middle class tax cuts and has a proposal to let middle-class parents deduct up to $10,000 a year in college tuition. She supports changes to the GI Bill. Gillibrand's has proposed, as a short term solution for high gasoline prices, eliminating the federal tax on gas, with lost revenue from the tax being recouped by ending subsidies for oil companies. She has issued an ethics proposal which includes an "Ethics IOU" to the voters.

In the fundraising quarter ending June 30, 2006, her campaign raised more money than did Sweeney's.

Other parties

Libertarian Party

Eric Sundwall was the endorsed candidate of the Libertarian Party.[4] He is a partner and co-founder of Old Kinderhook Integrated, a computer consulting company. His campaign attracted national attention[citation needed] and is the second largest Libertarian Congressional candidacy in the country (based on FEC filings)[citation needed] behind only Michael Badnarik, the 2004 Libertarian Presidential candidate and 2006 Congressional candidate in Texas.

Sundwall received a degree in Political Science and History from the State University of New York at Albany. He studied in Copenhagen and worked with the Internet's first accredited law school, Concord. He currently serves on the New York and national Libertarian Party committees.

As a third party candidate, Sundwall hoped to raise awareness about ballot access rights. Sundwall called on Congress to "declare war" according to the U.S. Constitution when invading any nation.

Sundwall's petitions were challenged on August 28 by three individuals with no obvious connection to the race. In an interesting twist, Sundwall was represented pro bono on these challenges by Warren Redlich, an attorney in Albany and the Republican candidate for Congress in New York's 21st congressional district.

The Board of Elections determination held that Sundwall was 690 signatures short of the 3500 required by New York State election law. Sundwall's campaign challenged the New York Board of Elections in Federal District Court on October 10, 2006. Sundwall et al. v. Kelleher et al., sought a Temporary Restraining Order on the distribution of the NYS ballot claiming the 'town' requirement in the Independent designating petition as unconstitutional. Sundwall's complaint was denied by Judge Thomas Kahn.

Liberal Party

Morris N. Guller, a political activist and retired stockbroker from Greene County was endorsed by the New York State Liberal Party and attempted to challenge Gillibrand, Sweeney, and Sundwall on the Liberal line in the November general election. However, state records from August 27, 2006 show that Guller did not file petitions to run as the Liberal Party candidate.[5]

Guller earlier attempted to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand in the September Democratic primary, but dropped out a day before the filing deadline. In 2004, Guller ran against Sweeney on the independent Centrist Party line.

Independence Party

On July 13, 2006, both Gillibrand and Sweeney filed petitions to be listed on the Independence Party line on the November ballot. The Sweeney campaign challenged the number of valid signatures on the Gillibrand petitions, and ultimately the state Board of Elections ruled she did not have enough valid signatures, and gave the Independence Party line to Sweeney.[6]

General campaign

In mid-August, residents of the 20th Congressional District reported receiving a telephone call that some described as a “push-poll. The call included extremely negative questions about Gillibrand. When pushed by respondents to identify who was doing the poll, the callers provided a phone number that led to Western Wats, a Utah-based research group that does data collection. A Western Wats worker told the Albany Times Union that the poll was commissioned by The Tarrance Group, a national Republican polling firm that does a lot of work for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Sweeney’s campaign insisted it had nothing to do with the poll.[7]

Sweeney had visits to his district for fundraising and support by First Lady Laura Bush, Senator John McCain, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Gillibrand was supported by a visit by former President Bill Clinton in late October,[8] and a visit by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.[citation needed]


On November 7, 2006 Gillibrand defeated Sweeney 53%-47%.

Gillibrand benefited from gaffes by the Sweeney campaign, including the report of a domestic violence incident between the Congressman and his wife, as well as the statewide landslide victories of Eliot Spitzer and Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York's Gubernatorial and Senate race. Both Spitzer and Clinton won all the counties in the 20th district. Gillibrand defeated Sweeney in all the major population centers in the district, including Saratoga Springs, Troy, Rensselaer and Dutchess County. Gillibrand lost only rural and sparsely populated Delaware and Greene Counties to Sweeney.


Source: Date: Sweeney (R) Gillibrand (D) Sundwall (LTRN) Guller (LIB) Other/Undecided
Zogby Poll [9] June 8, 2006 48% 24% 2% - 26%
Siena Poll [10] August 29, 2006 53% 34% - - 13%
Global Strategy [11] September 6, 2006 47% 39% - - 14%

Critics have argued that the Siena College poll had significant flaws; if so, Sweeney would still have been ahead of Gillibrand, but not as far.[citation needed] An August Siena College poll showed rather similar results [10] .[12] Sundwall was excluded from the Siena poll because his independent nominating petition was filed after the poll was taken[citation needed]. A DCCC poll taken in the days before the election showed Gillibrand beating Sweeney 44-42.


New York 20th congressional district election, 2006[13]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Kirsten Gillibrand 116,416
Working Families Kirsten Gillibrand 3,839
Total Kirsten Gillibrand 125,168 53.10
Republican John Sweeney 94,093
Conservative John Sweeney 9,869
Independence John Sweeney 6,592
Total John Sweeney 110,554 46.90
Majority 14,614
Turnout 235,722
Democratic gain from Republican Swing


  1. ^ We've Moved!
  2. ^ The 10,000 Things: Sweeney out? Treadwell in?
  3. ^ John E. Sweeney: Campaign Finance/Money - Contributions - Congressman 2006
  4. ^ Eric Sundwall
  5. ^
  6. ^ Story not found - StoryID: 505191 - Times Union - Albany NY
  7. ^ New York Politics Capitol Confidential : Albany Times Union : : Capitol confidential » Mystery Poll In the 20th (Updated)
  8. ^ Tim O'Brien, " Political foes pull out stops: Ex-president backs Gillibrand; Sweeney touts AMD in Malta", Times-Union, October 27, 2006
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^
  12. ^ News Copy, New York: 20th Congressional District
  13. ^ "2006 Election Results". New York State Board of Elections. 2006-12-14. Retrieved 2011-01-26. 

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