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Democrat to take U.S. House seat for New York

Saturday, April 25, 2009

By Paul Steinhauser
CNN Deputy Political Director


(CNN) -- It took nearly a month, but Democrat Scott Murphy has won the battle for New York's 20th Congressional District.
Democrat Scott Murphy will take the U.S. House seat for New York's 20th Congressional District.

Democrat Scott Murphy will take the U.S. House seat for New York's 20th Congressional District.

Republican James Tedisco conceded Friday and called Murphy to offer congratulations.

The race was too close to call after the March 31 election. But as absentee and overseas ballots poured in over the past few weeks, Murphy's lead grew.

President Obama extended his congratulations to the Missouri-born Murphy, saying his addition to Congress bodes well for the economic challenges facing the country.

"With this hard fought win, Scott has shown he is willing to fight the tough battles on behalf of the people in his district," Obama said. "As a candidate, Scott courageously championed the economic plans we need to lift our nation and put it on a better path, and he will continue to do so in Congress. With his proven record of creating high paying jobs and standing up for upstate New York, Scott will bring to the nation's capitol the change New Yorkers need."

Murphy, 39, is a millionaire venture capitalist. Tedisco, 58, is a longtime New York state lawmaker and ranking Republican in the State Assembly.

The candidates were running to replace Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to Hillary Clinton's former Senate seat by New York Gov. David Paterson. Clinton is now secretary of state in President Obama's Cabinet.

What normally would have been a local contest with little national interest partially evolved into an early referendum on Obama, his polices to jump-start the economy and the reputations of the Democratic and Republican parties. Both national parties and their congressional committees poured money and resources into the race.

The 20th is a moderate-to-conservative district that Republicans dominated for decades. Gillibrand won the seat in 2006 and was re-elected in November.
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* Congressional race may have national implications

The GOP enjoyed a wide edge in voter registration in the district, which includes portions of the Catskills, parts of the upper Hudson River valley, the Saratoga Springs area, Lake George and portions of the Adirondacks. George W. Bush won the district in the 2004 election, but Obama narrowly took the district in November.

The Republicans have fared poorly in New York in the past two elections, losing six House seats in 2006 and 2008, leaving them with just three in the 29-seat delegation.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, on the job for just three months, made recapturing the seat a priority and appeared twice with Tedisco.

But with the election so close, both parties hailed the results.

"Just a few short months ago, President Obama carried this district, and Kirsten Gillibrand won by an overwhelming margin against a well-funded challenger," said Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "For the first time in a long time, a Republican congressional candidate went toe-to-toe with a Democrat in a hard-fought battle over independent voters."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democratic win, in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats, is a vote of confidence for the president and his policies.

"Scott's victory is a clear indication that Democrats, independents and Republicans across the country want to continue moving America in a New Direction and reject the 'just say no' policies of Washington, D.C., Republicans," Pelosi said in a statement Friday afternoon.

But while the Democrats praised their victory in the special election, analysts cautioned that the race would probably have little bearing on future races.

"There should be a healthy pause before over-analyzing the results from New York 20," said Nathan Gonzalez, political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. "Historically, these early special elections aren't good predictors. I'm not convinced that this special election will be a good predictor of what happens in 2010."

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