UPDATE: Dan Maffei has issued a statement declaring victory in the 24th District Congressional race. The statement is as follows:
“I am honored that the people of Central New York have elected me to represent them in Congress. We have won an important victory for Central New York’s middle class. I am looking forward to working to fix our economy, create jobs, and rebuild our middle class. I would like to thank the voters, and all of our supporters who invested their time and energy in our campaign. This victory belongs to them.”
According to the latest counts, Maffei holds a 4 percent lead over Republican incumbent Ann Marie Buerkle.
EARLIER:The Associated Press has called the 24th District Congressional Race in favor of Democratic challenger Dan Maffei. But it could still be too soon to tell.
According to the AP, Maffei, who lost the position in 2010, beat out Republican incumbent Ann Marie Buerkle as well as Green Party challenger Ursula Rozum for the seat.
In his speech at Pensabene’s in Syracuse, even before the race was called in his favor, Maffei was jubilant, calling himself Central New York’s own “Comeback Kid.”
“We do still have some votes to count, but at this point, I am confident that when all the votes are counted, I will be your next Congressman,” he said. “Now the truth is, with a victory like this, it’s close, there’s a lot, everything is going on and every vote certainly counted. I have to tell you, this is not one of those wins that you call a candidate win. This is a win for my supporters. When you lose a race like we did two years ago and it’s that close … you learn who your real friends are. And ladies and gentlemen, I’m surrounded tonight by my real friends.”
The 24th District encompasses all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties and parts of Oswego County. Maffei had a commanding lead in Onondaga, with 96,440 votes, while Buerkle only has 73,546. Rozum took the expected 8 percent with 15,295. She conceded the race Tuesday night after gaining the highest vote for a Green Party candidate in a three-way race in the 24th District.
For her part, Buerkle wasn’t quite ready to give up. Earlier Tuesday evening, she urged Republican supporters to hold out hope.
“This is a replay of what happened two years ago,” she said, referring to the 2010 race when the vote had to go to the absentee ballots. In that race, the AP called it too soon, handing the victory to Maffei when, in fact, Buerkle had gotten more votes.
As of Wednesday morning, Maffei still held a 4 percent lead with 99 percent of the vote counted. But Buerkle issued a statement reminding everyone that the absentees were still out.
“In 2010, we were trailing on election night, only to see more votes come in and the outcome changed,” she said. “With so many ballots still to be recorded, it is important that we make sure there is an accurate counting of all votes. Our right to vote has been bought and paid for by the men and women of our armed services, and we owe it to all who have paid the ultimate price to count these ballots and allow the Democratic process to run its course.”
In addition, both the Maffei and Buerkle campaigns have agreed to impound the ballots, meaning all paper ballots and other election materials to be returned to the boards of elections on election night for later review. Maffei’s and Buerkle’s attorneys agreed to do so Monday, Nov. 5.
The suit was filed because the race was expected to be a close one.
“It’s important that we want to make sure that every valid vote is counted and that it’s open to review and that if mistakes are made that we’re able to deal with those mistakes as the law provides,” said Frank Hoare, the attorney representing Maffei.
A status report will be issued to the court on Tuesday, Nov. 13.
But Maffei was still confident in his near-victory. In his Election Night speech, he echoed the message he’d relayed throughout his campaign about giving Central New York its fair shot.
“I feel that if working Americans and the middle class can succeed, Central New York will succeed,” he said. “All they need is a fair shot. Well tonight we’re one step further — we’re gonna get that shot for Central New York.”
Ned Campbell contributed to the reporting for this article.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.