- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 19, 2009

Democrat Scott Murphy has lengthened a narrow lead over Republican Jim Tedisco in New York’s special House election that now appears headed toward further legal challenges, even though a top Republican predicts the race is lost.

“We lost the special election in New York. It’s gone,” said former Virginia Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, a veteran election vote-counter and former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

But Republican lawyers who have been monitoring the remaining voter tally said Friday they will go to court to ensure that all of the legitimate ballots cast are counted accurately.

“After two weeks of counting the votes, the one thing that remains certain is that this continues to be a remarkably close race, and every vote matters,” James E. Walsh, attorney for the Tedisco campaign, said in a statement late Friday.

“On Monday, we intend to make our case before the judge that this important election should be decided by the lawful voters of the 20th Congressional District and not by residents of New York City,” Mr. Walsh said in a reference to questions being raised over whether a number of the votes counted were from voters who reside outside of the district.

Mr. Murphy, a businessman and political neophyte, led by 264 votes Friday over Mr. Tedisco, the former state Assembly minority leader, in the upstate race to elect a successor to Democratic Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to fill Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vacated Senate seat.

The March 31 election ended in a virtual tie, with Mr. Murphy holding a tenuous 25-vote lead before a painstakingly slow two-week count examined several thousand absentee ballots, some of which have been challenged - including Mrs. Gillibrand’s own absentee ballot, which Republicans rejected on the grounds that she was in the congressional district on Election Day and could have voted in person.

Democrats have called on Mr. Tedisco to concede, while the National Republican Congressional Committee has charged in a recent fundraising appeal that “the Democrats will try to ‘steal’ the election.”

But as the absentee-ballot count progressed, Mr. Tedisco’s hopes of pulling ahead of his rival in Saratoga County, which he carried on Election Day and is the largest county in the district, did not materialize. Still, his campaign had faith that he could catch up and overcome Mr. Murphy’s lead when the roughly 1,200 challenged absentee ballots were counted.

Even so, the Tedisco campaign had been sending signals last week that they planned to take legal action to determine the legality of a number of absentee ballots challenged on residency grounds, where there were questions of whether voters were permanent residents of the district.

The judge has asked attorneys for both candidates to prepare briefs on the issue, and an official in the Tedisco campaign told The Washington Times on Friday that “it could be a significant numbers of voters.”

• Donald Lambro can be reached at dlambro@washingtontimes.com.old.

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