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New York race undecided, but Dems claim victory of sorts

In a special congressional election seen as a test of Obama's coattails, the Democrat leads by 59 votes, with thousands of absentee ballots still to be counted.

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Republicans were determined to win the seat back. Mr. Steele called it “incredibly important.” The Republicans fielded state Assembly minority leader Jim Tedisco as a candidate. While he didn’t actually live in the district, he was a well-known Republican leader in the area and started with name recognition and money.

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The Democrats chose Scott Murphy, an unknown originally from Missouri, who has lived in upstate New York for the past decade, working as a businessman and venture capitalist.

When the race began, Assemblyman Tedisco was up 20 points. As the campaign progressed, however, national issues began to take center stage, and as they did, Mr. Murphy’s poll numbers started rising. Murphy criticized Tedisco for initially refusing to take a stand on Obama’s stimulus package, for example. Tedisco eventually came out against it.

In a Siena Research Institute Poll released three days before the election, Murphy was up by 4 points, in part because his campaign was seen as more positive than Tedisco’s.

That was one of the things that prompted Joanne Stiles from Kinderhook, N.Y., to join other volunteers at Columbia County Democratic headquarters and spend her day calling people to get out the vote.

“We have now the momentum in this bastion of Republicanism, and I felt like, ‘I gotta do something,' ” she says.

Candidate Murphy swung by the county headquarters to thank the volunteers, saying he believes it all comes down to the economy.

“We’ve been talking about my experience as an entrepreneur building small businesses, as an investor working with small businesses and helping to create more than 1,000 jobs upstate,” he said. “That’s what people are looking for: problem solvers.”

Several hours north in Glens Falls, N.Y., Tedisco was making the rounds at Abbotts Restaurant, and he contends the main issue in the race was fiscal responsibility.

“When I see the waste and the shopping spree they’re on out there, where they appear to want to vacuum up as much money as they can to make new programs, I want to take on Congress,” he said.

But inside Abbotts, supporters like Jeannine Monroe, who was having lunch with friends from the local senior center, says she’s voting for Tedisco because she's comfortable with him. She’s a registered Republican, but she did vote for Obama in the fall. Even though Obama has endorsed Murphy, Ms. Monroe said she’s sticking with the candidate she knows.

“I was very confused off and on, but finally decided it’s going to be Jim,” she said. “You see a lot of negative things on TV, but you just have to forget that and go with what you know.”

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