Democrat Scott Murphy declared victory Friday in the bitterly contested 20th District congressional race in upstate New York after receiving a call Friday afternoon from GOP Assemblyman Jim Tedisco conceding his defeat.
“Earlier today, I called and congratulated Scott Murphy on a hard-fought contest and wished him well as the next Congressman of the 20th Congressional district,” Tedisco said in a statement released by his campaign. “I also expressed my willingness to work with him to ensure that the families of upstate New York are not left behind as our nation strives for economic recovery.
Tedisco added: “This was a close campaign every step of the way. Ultimately, it became clear that the numbers were not going our way and that the time had come to step aside and ensure that the next congressman be seated as quickly as possible.
“In the interest of the citizens of the 20th congressional district and our nation, I wish Scott the very best as he works with our new President and Congress to address the tremendous challenges facing our country,” Tedisco added.
At the time of Tedisco’s withdrawal, the latest count from the New York State Board of Elections showed him 399 votes behind Murphy. Murphy had won 80,420 votes to Tedisco’s 80,021.
The outcome represented a bitter setback for Republican leaders, who had identified the race as a measure of public support for President Barack Obama’s economic policies.
Republicans enjoyed a registration advantage of over 70,000 persons in the district, and had poured close to $2 million into the contest on Tedisco’s behalf. Republican leaders, including RNC chairman Michael Steele, also made campaign appearances for Tedisco.
Less than two months before the election, Tedisco had enjoyed a 21-point lead in the polls. But Tedisco’s poll numbers fell rapidly as voters got to know his opponent, who was a political neophyte.
The Murphy victory is already being hailed by Democrats as further evidence of the GOP’s political decline.
Friday afternoon, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee posted a statement from chairman Chris Van Hollen that stated, "In trying to win the NY-20 special election,” he stated, “the RNC, NRCC, and their Republican allies went all in on the losing gamble that voters would prefer their ‘just say no' approach to President Obama's bold plans to get the economy back on track.”
Tedisco had objected that a large number of New York City and Long Island residents, who own second residences in the district, had distorted the election result by casting ballots for Murphy. Most observers did not think a Tedisco appeal on those grounds was likely to succeed, however.
A few hundred absentee ballots remained to be counted when Tedisco conceded, but most analysts expected those ballots to favor Murphy.
Steven Greenberg, spokesman for the Siena Research group that conducted the only polling in the race, cautioned that the outcome should not be viewed as a sound indicator of Republicans’ prospects nationally.
“I would say this race is not necessary a harbinger of what’s going to go on in other congressional races,” he tells Newsmax. “First, the general election is a year and a half away, and that’s several lifetimes away in politics. And secondly, I think this race was more about local issues and candidates than it was about big-picture national issues.”
Greenberg says in retrospect the involvement of national Republican figures and the RNC may have actually hurt Tedisco.
“That was a piece of it,” he tells Newsmax. “And the voters clearly identified in the Siena polls that they felt the Tedisco ads were more negative than the Murphy ads. They were more attracted to the Murphy ads than the Tedisco ads. Part of it was, a politician [Tedisco] versus a businessman [Murphy]. And while I think this is a Republican district in terms of enrollment, it is very much a swing district in terms of voting history.”
The race was a special election to fill the House seat vacated when Kirsten Gillibrand moved over to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton when she became Secretary of State.
Gillibrand is extremely popular in the district, and was prominently featured endorsing Murphy in TV ads that received heavy airplay.
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