It looks like Democrats have won the race for Erie County executive, a bellwether for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's political power in the state.
Cuomo personally campaigned for three candidates: Erie County Executive candidate Mark Poloncarz, Assemblyman Mike Spano, who is running for mayor of Yonkers and Steve Bellone, running in an open contest for Suffolk County executive against Republican Angie Carpenter.
"Certainly the two most high profile races the governor got involved in were Erie and Suffolk counties, and if Democrats win there the governor will certainly talk about how voters sent a message," said Steve Greenberg, a pollster with the Siena Research Institute.
With 70 percent of precincts reporting, Poloncarz, the county comptroller, had pulled into a 53 percent to 47 percent lead over Collins.
Poloncarz's apparent victory essentially scuttles any chance Republican incumbent Chris Collins will run a 2014 race for governor. By diving in -- Cuomo attended a rally Friday -- he may have scored an early knockout blow.
Still, the lead between the two men see-sawed earlier in the night, before Poloncarz pulled ahead. There were 13,902 absentee ballots requested in the race, and Republicans have for weeks made hay over several that were mailed to a Democratic stronghold already filled in to support Collins. If the race does come down to absentee ballots, court battles and counting could last weeks.
Spano and Bellone were cruising to easier victories, according to returns. Spano declared victory when he led 57-33, with about half the precincts reporting, and Bellone -- whose campaign got a fundraising boost from Cuomo -- was ahead 56-44 with 66 percent of precincts reporting.
"Bellone has desperately tried to attach himself to Cuomo -- and the Republican principles that Cuomo espoused," said Republican State Chairman Ed Cox, who watched the returns in Suffolk County. "If he were to win, it's because he attached to those principles."
The Republican State Committee also invested heavily in flipping seats in the Democrat-dominated Westchester County Legislature, where at the least they hoped to gain enough strength to block overrides of Republican Executive Rob Astorino's vetoes.
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