Democratic Congressional candidate Dan Maffei was greeted with raucous applause as he entered the Democratic headquarters at Pensabenes Casa Grande Restaurant in Syracuse just after midnight Wednesday.
The 24th Congressional District candidate was swarmed by supporters, shaking hands and giving hugs before taking to the podium to address a crowd that stretched from the stage to the back of the ballroom.
“At this point I am confident that, when all the votes are counted, I will be your next congressman,” Maffei said to applause from the audience.
Maffei has been entangled in a tight race with Republican incumbent Ann Marie Buerkle since announcing his campaign for the district, which covers Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties, along with parts of Oswego county. Maffei and Buerkle were in a dead-heat heading into the race, both holding the support of 44 percent of likely voters in the final Siena Research Institute poll, released Friday, Nov. 2.
Green Party candidate Ursula Rozum, who was speculated by many to potentially draw votes away from Maffei, conceded to Maffei and Buerkle Tuesday night after around 60 percent of the precincts had reported. Rozum drew 8 percent of the total vote.
With all districts reporting, Maffei holds a lead of just under 14,500 votes, 6 percentage points, over Buerkle. Maffei won Oswego County with 45 percent of the vote to Buerkle’s 43 percent.
“This is the biggest Get Out the Vote ever in the history of Central New York,” Maffei said. “We could not be enjoying this night without that.”
In a statement released Wednesday morning, Buerkle said she has not conceded the race. She is waiting for all votes to be counted. Buerkle unseated Maffei in the 2010 race after a three-week counting process of absentee ballots declared her the winner by 648 votes.
“With so many ballots still to be recorded, it is important that we make sure there is an accurate counting of all votes,” Buerkle said in the statement.
Despite the absence of Buerkle’s concession, both the Associated Press and the New York Times have declared Maffei to be the winner of the district.
It was a night filled with excitement at the Democratic headquarters, as the supporters and candidates in attendance followed the results closely on two flat screen televisions set up in the restaurant’s ballroom, one tuned to MSNBC and the other to YNN for local results. After MSNBC called Ohio for President Obama, the crowd erupted into a chant of “Yes We Can.”
There was also a victory speech given by Assemblyman Al Stirpe, who won the race for the 127th State Assembly district from Republican incumbent Don Miller, who had unseated Stirpe in 2010. Stirpe threw his support behind Maffei, saying that Buerkle’s environmental beliefs make her unfit for office.
“I don’t care what you think about the deficit, if the Earth becomes uninhabitable, what good are those beliefs,” Stirpe said. “We’ve got to make sure the people who are in office care about the environment.”
Syracuse mayor Stephanie Miner was also at the party. Miner, who won her position in 2009 following a tight three-way race in which she received 50.1 percent of the vote, said she understood what both candidates were feeling Tuesday.
“Every second seems like an hour and every minute seems like a day,” Miner said. “You can live and die from moment to moment as the results come in.”
Miner said several national legislature issues, such as access to education, housing and urban development and gun control all have implications on the Syracuse and Central New York area.
“We’re looking for a close partner to go to Washington and make sure our voices are heard,” Miner said.
The 24th Congressional District race is the last race of New York’s 27 House districts to remain officially undecided.