Upsets in the Making for Two Veterans

Upsets in the Making for Two Veterans

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.