Smullen takes 118th Assembly seat

Successful Republican state Assembly candidate Robert Smullen, right, converses with Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino at Fulton County Republican Committee headquarters Tuesday night at Patricia’s Restaurant in Johnstown. (Photo — Michael Anich, the Leader-Herald)

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County has its first state legislator in Albany since the early 1990s.

Republican retired Marine Corps Col. Robert J. Smullen of the Meco hamlet of the town of Johnstown on Tuesday handily defeated Democratic challenger Keith Rubino of Herkimer County to claim the seat representing the five-county, state 118th Assembly District.

State legislators serve two-year terms.

Smullen won by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio: 26,451 votes to 14,976. That equated to 60 percent of the vote for Smullen and 33.4 percent for Rubino.

In Fulton County, Smullen enjoyed an even bigger margin of victory — 10,303 to 5,204, for a 63.2 percent to 31.9 percent victory.

“I think if you look at all the numbers, you see how Fulton County really stood up,” Smullen said today. “It was across the board. I’m totally humbled.”

Smullen will be assuming the seat of former, longtime Republican state Assemblyman Marc Butler of Newport, who is retiring at the end of the year. When he assumes office in Albany in January, Smullen will be the first Assembly member from Fulton County since the late, longtime Assemblyman Glenn H. Harris of Gloversville, who retired in 1991.

“I feel great,” Smullen said. “I just want to thank everyone for all the support, and I am ready to get to work as the assemblyman from this district.”

He said he wants to attack the major issues impacting New York state.

“The biggest thing that people talked about (on the campaign trail) is taxes and jobs,” he said.

But Smullen’s victory is tainted somewhat by a pending criminal matter against him. His case was headed for a Schenectady County Court grand jury, his attorney said in October.

Smullen was arrested by state police in July and charged with a felony for allegedly filing false paperwork to get a reduction in property taxes on a home he owns in Niskayuna. Since Smullen’s announcement in April that he was running, questions have been raised about his residency and tax exemptions on properties he owns. His primary residence is listed at 265 Route 309, Johnstown, but he also owns a home in Niskayuna where his family resides so their child with a learning disability can attend a “specific school.”

He admitted he had sought a military tax exemption for the Niskayuna property, but that it had been done in error and that he withdrew the request and paid back the exemption money.

He said this morning he expects the criminal matter to be “resolved.”

Smullen, a former executive director of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, also did well in the other four counties representing the 118th Assembly District.

The results were as follows: Hamilton County, Smullen 1,616 and Rubino 700; Herkimer County, Smullen 5,784 and Rubino 3,498; Oneida County, Smullen 5,479 and Rubino 3,006; and St. Lawrence County 3,269 and Rubino 2,559.

Rubino on Wednesday morning was somewhat down after his loss, feeling his home area let him down.

“I’m so grateful that 15,000 people took that chance on something (different) after 20 years,” he said. “I’m extremely disappointed that Herkimer County chose party lines.”

Rubino said he’s amazed how many people “don’t care” and voted for his opponent.

“There are people who straight up didn’t hear my message,” he said.

Rubino answered “yeah” when asked if he would further pursue politics, but he’s not sure if it would be in the 118th Assembly District.

He has worked in the special needs field for companies like ARC Herkimer, Upstate Cerebral Palsy and currently Central New York DSO.