PENN YAN — While absentee ballots could change the results from election night, it appears Todd Casella has unseated incumbent Valerie Gardner in the race for Yates County district attorney.
According to unofficial results posted by the Board of Elections Tuesday night, Casella garnered 2,704 votes, or 52.6 percent, to 2,435, or 47.3 percent, for Gardner.
Approximately 550 absentee ballots were sent out, and more than 400 have been returned so far. They will be counted next week, but both sides believe Casella’s 269-vote margin is unassailable.
“There’s obviously a chance it could turn around, but she would have to pull a very high percentage of absentee votes,” Casella said. “I feel very good about this.”
“Preliminary results are in and although there are still over 500 absentee ballots to be counted, it appears that my service to you as your district attorney will end Dec. 31,” Gardner said on her Facebook site.
The race pitted Casella, a Steuben County assistant district attorney, against Gardner, who defeated incumbent Jason Cook in 2013. Cook is now Yates County judge.
Casella and Gardner were lined up for a Republican primary battle in September, but Casella was taken off the GOP line by a Rochester-based appeals court. The court ruled that Casella’s address on his nominating petitions was his former home in Hammondsport.
Casella appeared on the Independence and Reform lines in Tuesday’s election, while Gardner was on the Republican, Conservative and Women’s Equality lines. Casella said he visited numerous homes in the county in the weeks leading up to the vote.
“I’m very thankful for all the help that I got from people in this community. Our hard work paid off,” he said. “I was out every single day meeting everybody I could with every free minute I had. That made a difference.
“What a night. I am truly humbled by the tremendous honor that the people of Yates County have bestowed on me by electing me as your new district attorney. Now the hard work begins — and I won’t let you down.”
Gardner said while she was disappointed in the results, she wasn’t devastated.
“It has been my great honor and privilege to serve you and I am proud of the progress we have made in the last four years,” she said. “I was taught to leave everything better than how you found it. With a 30 percent reduction in our crime rate, a more transparent and responsible budget, and an always ethical and responsible approach to finding justice for my dear Yates County community, I feel very blessed. I have always been placed in positions where my talents and nurturing have been needed. I trust the next chapter will be similarly rewarding and useful.”