ALBANY - State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk took her oath of office to formally join the Legislature on Wednesday, giving Democrats a morale boost in a session in which they hold the majority of seats but remain frozen out of power.
"It feels great and it's great to have so many people here supporting me," Tkaczyk said. "I'm here to represent everyone regardless of party affiliation and where you live. It's just important to know my door is open. If I can help you, I will."
Tkaczyk, who was declared winner of the 46th Senate District November election by just 18 votes when the last few ballots were counted Friday, was repeatedly and loudly cheered by Democrats who lined the Senate Chamber and crowded a spectator gallery above.
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She defeated former Assemblyman George Amedore in the election. Ballot challenges in court prolonged the counting of votes.
The newly formed 46th Senate District includes all of Montgomery and Greene counties and parts of Schenectady, Albany and Ulster counties.
Tkaczyk was sworn in by state Supreme Court Judge Christine Clark and was joined by her husband, Eric, their son Peter and Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
In a news release, Tkaczyk said she is prepared to serve her constituents and fight for a "common sense, progressive agenda to create jobs, stabilize property taxes and secure our fair share of school aid."
In addition to kick-starting the upstate economy, Tkaczyk's top priorities include supporting women's health care, reforming the campaign finance system and protecting the region's natural resources, the news release said.
In an emailed statement to constituents, Tkaczyk said, "My election was also a referendum on publicly financed fair elections, and fair elections won. There's no question that big money dominates campaigns in New York. By creating a system of publicly financed elections, we'll reward candidates for attracting support from ordinary voters, not CEO campaign contributors," she said.
Republicans have formed a new Senate Majority Coalition with five breakaway Democrats.
Tkaczyk admitted afterward that she joins a Senate whose leadership remains hotly disputed even though it has the tacit support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who endorsed GOP incumbents last fall.
"It's an odd configuration and, you know, we'll have to see how it works," she said when asked about serving in a Senate led by the new bipartisan coalition. "I'm happy I'm here and I'm going to vote on bills that I hope will get to the floor. I especially want to see strong progressive bills like campaign finance reform, lifting the minimum wage, passing the Reproductive Health Act."