Tuesdays special election in New Yorks 20th Congressional district is too close to call and isnt likely to be resolved any time soon depriving both national parties of an immediate victory that they were looking forward to touting.
With all precincts reporting in the 10-county upstate district shortly after 10:30 p.m., Democrat Scott Murphy was clinging to a 59-vote lead over Republican Jim Tedisco out of more than 154,000 votes cast.
The winner will replace Kirsten Gillibrand (D), who was appointed to the Senate in late January.
But the victor might not be known anytime soon. According to the Associated Press, more than 5,900 absentee ballots must be tallied before the race can be called and counting will not begin until Monday. Ballots from military personnel serving overseas are still being accepted until April 13, and there are about 1,300 men and women serving in the military overseas who were eligible to vote in this election.
It appears likely that the national political parties will have to gear up for a legal fight over the New York House seat, and leaders of both were expressing confidence late Tuesday night that their nominees would ultimately prevail.
Scott Murphys strong showing in this district where Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 70,000 represents a rejection of the obstructionist agenda and scare tactics that have become the hallmark of House Republicans, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said.
New York GOP Chairman Joseph Mondello was throwing the same 70,000 figure around, but in a different way.
Even in this district that was won by a Democrat by 70,000 votes just four short months ago, I am confident that Jim Tedisco will be our next Congressman once all the ballots are counted, he said.
National Republicans began the campaign with high hopes. The 20th district has 70,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats, and Tedisco, a pugnacious 26-year legislative veteran who is Minority Leader of the state Assembly, was a well-known commodity in upstate New York.
But he stumbled over President Barack Obamas economic stimulus package, refusing to say for almost a month whether he would have voted for it.
Murphy went on the attack and newspapers demanded an answer and when Tedisco finally came out against it, Democrats pounced yet again, arguing that upstate would benefit from the economic development and infrastructure spending in the bill.
Republicans and their affiliated groups spent particularly heavily on the race, waging a brutal campaign against Murphy, a wealthy businessman and a political novice. National Republicans and their allies spent about $2 million on the race, while Democrats and their allies spent in the neighborhood of $1.2 million. Each candidate raised more than $1 million.
In addition to GOP missteps, Murphy was able to take advantage of recent political trends nationally and locally. Despite the districts Republican overlay on paper, it has been trending Democratic, given Gillibrands two significant victories in 2006 and 2008. Obama won the district by about 3 points last November.
Recent polls have shown Gillibrand and Obama to be popular figures in the district. The president sent two e-mails to supporters on Murphys behalf, and Vice President Joseph Biden cut a radio ad for him. Gillibrand campaigned by his side, appeared in a TV ad for him and also placed robocalls on his behalf.
Democrats hold a lopsided 25-3 advantage in the New York House delegation.