New York Times

A fierce rematch of a State Senate race that was decided two years ago by 18 votes, appeared to be headed to court on Wednesday, with the longtime Republican incumbent Nicholas A. Spano refusing to concede.

With the votes from every district tallied Wednesday night, Mr. Spano was 2,145 votes behind his Democratic opponent, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, whom Mr. Spano beat in 2004 after a bitter recount that lasted three months. Mr. Spano insisted that he would not concede until every absentee and emergency ballot had been counted and all machine votes had been recanvassed, a process that could take more than a week.

Even so, Ms. Stewart-Cousins, a six-term Westchester County legislator, said she was confident that she had won and was looking forward to replacing Mr. Spano in Albany.

”I’m feeling very positive that I am going to be the senator from the 35th district come January,” she said from her campaign headquarters in Yonkers on Wednesday. ”I am sure that my lead will hold, and the people will have a new senator.”

The unofficial lead was posted Wednesday evening on the Web site of the Westchester County Board of Elections, which spent much of the day counting ballots after Democratic and Republican officials requested on Tuesday night that the board impound voting machines.

John Ciampoli, a Republican lawyer who handled the recount for Mr. Spano in 2004, said on Wednesday that it was too soon to call the race because there were still 2,500 absentee, affidavit ballots left to count and that potential errors that might still need to be identified and corrected. He said a court hearing based on an order to show cause for a recount was filed by both sides and is set for Thursday afternoon.

”Remember, there are six more days for absentee ballots to arrive at the board,” he said. ”We want to get an accurate number. The only thing we know right now is that the race is close.”

Two years ago, Mr. Spano and Ms. Stewart-Cousins were locked in a dispute that involved months of courtroom wrangling and ballot-challenging. As voting machines were checked and rechecked and errors were identified and corrected, Mr. Spano’s lead rose and fell until it settled at just 18 votes. This year’s rematch has been just as bitter, marked by nasty television ads and a late effort by the Republican Party to challenge nearly 6,000 voter registrations in Yonkers, which Democrats called an attempt to suppress the votes of poor or minority citizens. The challenge is still being considered by the Westchester County Board of Elections.

That battle continued to play out on Tuesday as Democrats accused Republicans of intimidating voters in Yonkers. Ted Lazarus, a spokesman for Ms. Stewart-Cousins, said Republican poll inspectors at a heavily minority voting site in downtown Yonkers challenged the signature of nearly every voter while other Republican advocates circulated lists of the 6,000 residents whose registration had been challenged.

And at one voting site in Yonkers, voters complained that someone had glued voting levers shut.

The apparent defeat was a stunning turnaround for Mr. Spano, the scion of an influential Westchester family who has been the Senate for two decades. Political leaders in Westchester suggested that Mr. Spano had lost crucial votes this time around by alienating conservative voters and failing to secure the endorsement of the Working Families Party, which has about 1,600 voters in the district.

”I think a lot of people feel he shifted too far to the left to accommodate the growing Democratic registration in his district,” said Paul Noto, a Republican consultant. ”His record is not one that most Republicans would be impressed with, particularly on taxes and government spending.”


New York Times



FOR the first time in 30 years, voters in the lower Hudson Valley — an area that is both rural and suburban — elected a Democrat to represent them in Congress.

John Hall, the singer-turned-environmentalist-turned-activist, ousted Sue Kelly, the six-term incumbent, in the race for the 19th Congressional District seat. With 97 percent of the precincts reporting as of Thursday morning, Mr. Hall led Ms. Kelly by 3,414 votes. As of early Thursday, Ms. Kelly had refused to concede.

In Yonkers, the run of another longtime incumbent and influential political figure also appears to have come to an end. With the votes from every precinct tallied Wednesday night, State Senator Nicholas A. Spano, who has been in office for two decades, found himself 2,145 votes behind Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a six-term Westchester legislator whom he defeated by just 18 votes in 2004, after a drawn-out, bitter recount. Mr. Spano, as of Thursday, had also not conceded.

Ms. Kelly and Mr. Spano cited the thousands of absentee and emergency ballots that still had to be counted.

Mr. Spano also said that he was holding on to the possibility that errors would be uncovered in a recount.

Mr. Hall nonetheless declared victory, as did Ms. Stewart-Cousins. ”I am sure that my lead will hold and that people will have a new senator,” she said.

Mr. Hall, a former Ulster County legislator and founder of the band Orleans, famous for the hit song ”Still the One,” rode to office on the same wave of discontent that helped topple Republican incumbents nationwide.

He also benefited from a changing electorate in his district, which is still solidly Republican, but has experienced an upsurge in Democratic voters in the past few years, due in large part to the influx of New York City residents. That he received the support of 2,400 Satmar Hasidic voters from the Village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County, who supported Ms. Kelly in her previous elections, could have also played a role in his victory.

”I’m going in clean,” Mr. Hall said, pointing out that he had not accepted contributions from corporations and drew the bulk of his money instead from individual donations of $500 or less.

”I’m going to Congress able to vote the interest of my constituents and knowing that I’m not going to have anyone hovering over my shoulder, whispering, ‘Remember, you owe me,’ ” he said.

Though disapproval of President Bush and his handling of the war in Iraq may have been in the back of voters’ minds, in the race for the 35th State Senate District, which includes most of Yonkers and parts of Greenburgh and Mount Pleasant, it was the desire for new leadership in Albany that inspired most voters, particularly the independent and unaffiliated ones, to vote Democrat, analysts said.

Additionally, Mr. Spano’s left-leaning positions, evident in his support of same-sex couples’ and women’s reproductive rights, may have alienated the traditional Republican bloc that had voted for him in the past.

”I think a lot of people feel he shifted too far to the left to accommodate the growing Democratic registration in his district,” said Paul Noto, a Republican consultant.

Mr. Noto and other analysts in Westchester noted that Mr. Spano’s failure to get the endorsement of the Working Families Party, which supported him in 2004, may have also cost him crucial votes.

New Rochelle Journal


Ten years ago, the brick building that now holds the Huguenot Children’s Library was a graffiti-covered wreck — boarded up and charred by fire. It had not been a functioning library since the 1970’s, when budget cuts forced it to close. It sat amid broken glass and trash in a desolate city park.

”This place was a mess,” said Theresa Kump Leghorn, who was among the dozens of people who pitched in to clean up the park and re-establish the library. ”It would be such a tragedy to see it close again.”

Yet this city seems on the brink of just that. And this time, it won’t be just the charming children’s library but also the main library, a $10 million building downtown.

Because of an unusual confluence of events, voters will be asked to approve a new tax to pay for a library system that the city budget had always financed. Voters twice rejected the new tax, and unless they vote to approve it Tuesday, the city’s two libraries will have to close July 1.

If that happens, New Rochelle residents will not be able to borrow books in nearby communities, which extend that privilege only to towns that reciprocate.

So today about 100 children, most of them pupils at local public schools, rallied on the grounds of the children’s library and marched through the park to urge approval of the budget of about $3 million.

”Even though kids can’t vote, they can make a big difference,” said Samantha Weisman, a fourth grader who helped organize the rally. ”The adults are fighting and the kids are stuck in the middle. We are people, too.”

The battle over the books is, to some people, a battle for New Rochelle’s soul. The library is one of the only places in Westchester County where affluent and working class, black and white, new immigrant and native citizen live virtually side by side. In a sprawling, suburban county where shopping malls double as town squares, supporters of the library say it is one of the precious few public institutions where people from different backgrounds encounter one another.

”I moved to New Rochelle 12 or 13 years ago,” said Ms. Kump Leghorn’s husband, Thomas Leghorn, who is on the library’s board of trustees. ”I wasn’t as comfortable with the homogenous nature of certain communities. New Rochelle is a great microcosm of a large city in that the residents are so multicultural and every level of the economic and social strata is there.”

Opponents of the library tax say that it is simply a matter of affordability and accountability. In a city where homeowners average about $10,000 a year in property taxes, some question whether it is fair to ask residents for more money. They also question whether the board of trustees, which is now appointed, should have the right to levy taxes and ask whether doing so amounts to taxation without representation.

”We are not against libraries,” said Douglas A. Colety, chairman of the city’s Republican Party, who is part of a group urging voters to reject the budget. ”But taxes are very high in New Rochelle. Many seniors and people on fixed income cannot afford to live here. We have to be advocates for them, too.”

New Rochelle’s library troubles began with a 1996 state law that required small cities with populations under 125,000 to pay for their libraries the way school districts do, with a budget voted up or down by residents and a separate tax levy.

The library system had always been part of the city’s budget, and it continued that way despite the new law. In 2001, though, a State Education Department official told the library board that it had to comply with the statute. The city, facing budget problems of its own, removed the library from its spending plan earlier this year.

Last year the library’s trustees put a $3.4 million budget to a vote with little publicity. It was defeated 2,208 to 1,518, in a city with 37,000 registered voters. When they tried again a month later, the budget was defeated, but by a smaller margin.

Meanwhile, opposition to the new tax mounted and was organized into a coalition by the Republican and Conservative Parties, which started a Web site and an e-mail and lawn-sign campaign to urge voters to reject the budget.

Another group, Save Our Library, argued that homeowners’ property taxes would increase an average of only $170 a year — a small price to pay, they said, for a public resource.

On Tuesday, the budget will be a trimmed-down $2.96 million, and candidates will vie for two of the board’s seven seats. Eventually all seats on the library board will be elected, library officials said.

The stakes in the vote are high. City officials, who have paid for the libraries during the voting battles, said there was only enough money to keep the system open until June 30 if the new tax fails.

The children who rallied here today said they were the ones being shortchanged. ”Everyone uses libraries, no matter where they are from,” said Joh’vonni Smith, a sixth grader. ”If we lose our library, we won’t have any place to read books or study. That just isn’t fair.”