N.Y. special election too close to call

With all precincts reporting in the special election to fill Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Suburban moms are going to decide the 2020 election Jon Stewart urges Congress to help veterans exposed to burn pits MORE’s (D-N.Y.) former House seat, the race could be headed for a drawn-out ballot-counting process.

Democratic businessman Scott Murphy led Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco by 65 votes out of more than 150,000 cast with 100 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

With thousands of absentee ballots to be counted, the race could drag on for days or weeks. The waiting could be prolonged by a state board of elections decision last week to extend the deadline for absentee ballots to April 13.

The deadline was extended about a week after the U.S. Justice Department determined that overseas and military voters weren’t given enough time to remit their ballots. Ballots must be postmarked by March 30.

About 6,000 absentee ballots had been received by Monday — more than covering the 65-vote margin in the race.

Tedisco began the race far ahead as a well-known, longtime assemblyman in a district with a sharp GOP registration advantage.

Despite the historical lean of the district, though, it went for President Obama by three points and Gillibrand by more than 20 in November.

As the political neophyte Murphy became more and more well-known, he closed what began as a 20-point gap and led within the margin of error in polling in the final week of the race.

Democrats spent more and more money on the race, hoping to thwart any GOP momentum after two straight cycles of 20-plus-seat gains.

Tedisco was bolstered by millions in independent spending on the race from groups like the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the National Republican Trust PAC. As the race narrowed, though, he sought to separate himself from the party apparatus and make the race about local issues.

Toward the end of the campaign, he and the party sought to make an issue of Murphy’s comment that he would oppose the death penalty, even for the terrorists who killed thousands of Americans in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Murphy highlighted his family values and tied himself to Obama’s economic agenda, hitting Tedisco for weeks for failing to say how he would have voted on Obama’s stimulus package. Eventually, Tedisco came out against the package, joining the vast majority of Republicans in Washington in decrying it as wasteful.

Obama entered the race late, endorsing Murphy, sending a fundraising letter and having Vice President Biden record a radio ad. Some Democrats were upset that Obama didn’t make a trip to the district, though.

Before the results rolled in, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) proclaimed the close race as an example of a solid campaign effort from Murphy.

“Murphy had a strong and consistent message focusing on jobs and getting the economy back on track, outstanding fundraising, top-notch rapid response, and an excellent get-out-the-vote operation,” the DCCC said in a memo Tuesday. “Tedisco on the other hand did not have a clear message, erratically jumped from issue to issue, and ran an extremely negative campaign.”

From the beginning, Republicans pegged the race as a referendum on the Democrats, with Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele labeling it a top priority and visiting the district early on.

The race became a referendum on Steele, though, who has struggled in his early weeks as party chairman thanks to numerous blunders that have some calling for his job.

Democrats retain a large advantage in the House, with 254 members to the GOP’s 178. Two Democratic strongholds are vacant in White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s (D-Ill.) former House seat and the seat left by new Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (D-Calif.).