The candidates in the 24th congressional district contest were prepared for the race to go down to the wire, since polls predicted that democrat Dan Maffei and Ann Marie Buerkle were locked in a statistical tie, with Green Party candidate Ursula Rozum trailing behind. But it looks like former Congressman Maffei will be returning to Washington to represent central New York in Congress.
Despite holding a lead in votes most of the evening, the Maffei campaign was hesitant to declare victory. That was until the Associated Press called the race for him.
"I am confident that when all the votes are counted, I will be your next congressman," Maffei told cheering supporters.
Maffei waited until after midnight to arrive at his victory party in Syracuse. He told a crowd already amped up on a victory by President Barack Obama that the race was about his supporters.
"It appears central New York has its own comeback kid!" Maffei declared, in a reference to former president Bill Clinton, who came to Syracuse to campaign for Maffei.
The Democrat will replace Congresswoman Buerkle, who served one term. While Buerkle won the seat by less than 700 votes two years ago, Maffei led by a larger margin this time.
It was enough of a lead that Green Party candidate Ursula Rozum does not appear to be playing a spoiler role for liberals.
But there would be no concession from Republican Ann Marie Buerkle. With not all of the counties reporting their results last night, the congresswoman said it was too soon to give up.
"I'm afraid this is going to be somewhat of a replay, maybe not of last time, it's just not going to be decided tonight," said Buerkle.
Buerkle told Onondaga County Republicans Tuesday night that more votes need to be counted before a winner can be declared.
But Buerkle has a large hole to climb out of, losing Onondaga County to Democrat Dan Maffei by almost 23,000 votes, and in the district overall by thousands. Buerkle was hoping the outlying rural counties that gave her a victory two years ago would make up the differerence.
"Well if you remember last year, Wayne County didn't come in 'till the next day. So that's the problem," Buerkle told WRVO News.
When asked if she could overcome the deficit by absentee ballots, Buerkle said, "I just don't know, until we see the results it's hard to speculate."
There are still 21,000 absentee ballots that were sent out; those that are returned need to be counted. Those absentees in this race have been impounded, as candidates expected a close race.
Two years ago it was three weeks before all votes were counted and Buerkle took the seat by fewer than 700 votes. It was a different district then with redistricting adding a portion of Oswego County and taking away part of Monroe County that had swung overwhelmingly to Buerkle.