Senate Race in Westchester Is Headed for Recount Again

Senate Race in Westchester Is Headed for Recount Again

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.”