A primary challenger to veteran Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, said Friday he has gained new momentum in the race after landing the endorsement of Democrats from the incumbent’s home turf — Madison County.
Michael Hennessy, a stockbroker and former Oneida County legislator, picked up the backing of the Madison County Democratic Committee, a setback for Magee, the chairman of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and a 12-term lawmaker.
“Mr. Hennessy supported every item in our platform,” said Michael Oot, the Madison Democratic chairman.
Magee did get some support, including the backing of his wife, a member of the committee, and received a standing ovation before he left the committee gathering.
“The room was filled with a lot of affection for him,” said Oot.
But the endorsement went to Hennessy, 55, who said: “I applaud them for their courageous decision.”
Hennessy, who now serves as a Sherrill city commissioner, said he is confident that he will land the endorsement of Oneida County Democrats after being recommended by that group’s executive committee.
Magee has the endorsement of the Otsego County Democratic Committee, which remains in his corner, said Otsego Chairman Richard Abbate.
Magee shrugged off the significance of the Madison endorsement going to Hennessy, saying it came from “a very small group of individuals” within the county.
“I have represented this district well, and I will continue to do so,” Magee said Friday evening.
Otsego County GOP Chairman Vince Casale said the setback for Magee could prompt other challengers to emerge.
“I’m genuinely surprised by this,” Casale said. “That’s something you don’t often get in this business.”
Also angling for Magee’s seat in Albany is Republican John Salka, 59, the Brookfield town supervisor and a respiratory therapist.
Casale said he believes at least one other Republican is interested in wading into the race.
Magee has held the seat since 1990. The district covers all of Madison County, and portions of Oneida and Otsego counties.