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Democrat Andrew Cuomo cruised to victory in the New York State governor's race Tuesday night, while Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Eric Schneiderman also came out on top in what's being cast as a pivotal election for the state and the nation.
Cuomo will assume the seat that his father held for three terms between 1983 and 1994.
The outgoing attorney general enjoyed a commanding lead through most of the campaign, and handedly beat Republican and Tea Party-backed candidate Carl Paladino.
Cuomo claimed victory in an address to supporters late Tuesday night at the Midtown Sheraton, where he called on New Yorkers to unite and move forward under his watch.
"The people have spoken tonight and they have been loud and clear," he said. "The mandate tonight is to clean up Albany. They want reform and they want government in Albany changed. And that's what they're going to get."
Surrounded by family members that included his father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, the younger Cuomo delivered a forceful acceptance speech that echoed the rhetorical flourishes his father was known for.
"Yes, we are upstate and we are downstate," he said. "Yes, we are black and we are white; yes, we are gay and we are straight. But we are one state because we are New York. Yes, you can try to divide us, but we are one. And we aren't going let you separate us."
Cuomo's ascension to the governor's office caps a long journey that began not long after his father lost his gubernatorial re-election bid in 1994. Once considered a top Democratic heir apparent, the younger Cuomo served as the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001, then sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002. But he was forced to withdraw during the primary when party officials placed their support behind Carl McCall, and his gubernatorial dreams appeared to be all but dead when fellow Democrat Eliot Spitzer handily won the governorship in 2006.
But Spitzer resigned in the wake of a prostitute scandal only 15 months into his term, and his replacement, David Paterson, withdrew his bid for a full term when his popularity sagged in the wake of ethics charges against his administration, paving the way for Cuomo's rise.
The mood Tuesday night was less festive in Buffalo, where a reluctant Paladino eventually conceded
"I'm humbled," an emotional Paladino said as the crowd chanted "Carl, Carl, Carl!"
"We saw the passion of regular people spill into the streets," said the Buffalo businessman. "We're tired of the backroom dealings. We're tired of politicians who suffocate the will of the people. Together we opened many eyes in New York. We got their attention and it's our duty to keep our voices raised, keep our pitchforks at the ready, and never surrender."
"I promised to bring a baseball bat to Albany – well here it is," he added, hoisting a black and orange bat as the crowd cheered. "I have a message for Andrew Cuomo, our next governor: Grab the handle and bring the people with you."
Schneiderman Defeats Donovan In State AG Race
In a tight race for State Attorney General, outgoing State Senator Eric Schneiderman defeated Republican Dan Donovan.
Calling it an "improbable journey," Schneiderman thanked his supporters for sending him back to Albany as the state's top lawyer.
"I’m ready to stand up against powerful forces who seek to divide us, powerful forces who seek to denigrate others, powerful forces who seek to deny some New Yorkers equal justice under law, I’m ready to go,” Schneiderman said.
Polls earlier in the day showed a dead heat between Schneiderman, a 12-year state Senator from Manhattan, and Donovan, the current Staten Island district attorney.
Donovan, who had the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayor Ed Koch, told supporters that despite the loss, a message of reform was sent to Albany.
"We fell a little bit short, but it does not change the fact that we need a new direction in our state, that we have to give the people of New York a reason to believe in their government again," Donovan said.
DiNapoli Claims Comptroller Victory Over Wilson
In another closely-watched contest, Thomas DiNapoli declared victory in the race for the comptroller's office.
DiNapoli defeated Wall Street insider and former hedge fund manager Harry Wilson by three percentage points.
"This is a great honor for me to be the people's choice for New York State Comptroller," DiNapoli told supporters. "I think our race is a little bit of lesson, that it's not always about the polls, or the pundits, or the papers for that matter. It's about the people."
Wilson waited until 9:30 this morning to concede the race. In a statement, Wilson congratulated DiNapoli and said he hopes the issues he raised during the campaign will be addressed to benefit New York State.
DiNapoli over took the post after then-Comptroller Alan Hevesi resigned amid criminal charges of misusing his office.
Schumer, Gillibrand Headed Back To Washington
In the race for U.S. Senate, Democratic incumbent Charles Schumer easily overcame
Republican challenger Jay Townsend for a third term.
Speaking to supporters Tuesday night, Schumer said "the best is yet to come."
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Schumer said. "I will work every day for the next six years to earn your vote. You New Yorkers have shown over and over again the intelligence, the tenacity and the optimistic spirit that makes New York the greatest state in the nation."
Junior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, meanwhile, held on to her seat with an easy win over Republican Joe DioGuardi.
The special election was held to fill out the remaining two years of the term won by Hillary Clinton in 2006.
"I haven't been in Washington very long but I can tell you it's broken," Gillibrand told supporters. "The challenges we face have never ever been greater. We need a better vision for New York."
Avella Ousts Padavan But Most State Legislators Keep Their Seats
As usual, incumbents ruled the day in the city's State Legislature races – with a few notable exceptions.
In one of the most closely-watched State Senate races, former City Councilmember Tony Avella, a Democrat, defeated Republican incumbent Frank Padavan to win the State Senate seat in District 11 in Queens. Padavan had held the seat for almost four decades.
Democrats retaining their State Senate seats included Shirley Huntley, Jose Peralta, Malcolm Smith, Joseph Addabbo, Toby Ann Stavisky, Martin Dilan, Velmanette Montgomery, John Sampson, Eric Adams, Kevin Parker, Diane Savino, Daniel Squadron, Liz Krueger, Carl Kruger, Jose Serrano, Thomas Duane, Bill Perkins, Ruben Diaz, Jeffrey Klein and Ruth Thompson.
Republican State Senators Martin Golden and Andrew Lanza were also re-elected.
Also in Queens, Democrat Michael Gianaris was elected to fill the District 12 State Senate seat vacated by the retirement of Democrat George Onorato.
And outgoing Democratic Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat won the District 31 Senate seat being vacated by newly-elected State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, while Democrat Gustavo Rivera won the District 33 seat being vacated by Pedro Espada.
In the State Assembly, Democrats retaining their seats included Grace Meng, Audrey Pheffer, David Weprin, Rory Lancman, Andrew Hevesi, William Scarborough, Margaret Markey, Michele Titus, Vivian Cook, Barbara Clark, Michael Den Dekker, Jeffrion Aubry, Catherine Nolan, Michael Miller, Inez Barron, Helene Weinstein, Rhoda Jacobs, Karim Camara, James Brennan, Alec Brook-Krasny, William Colton, Dov Hikind, Peter Abbate, Joseph Lentol, Felix Ortiz, Joan Millman, Vito Lopez, Darryl Towns, William Boyland, Annette Robinson, Hakeem Jeffries, Nick Perry, Alan Maisel, Matthew Titone, Michael Cusick, Sheldon Silver, Micah Kellner, Deborah Glick, Linda Rosenthal, Daniel O'Donnell, Keith Wright, Herman Farrell, Jonathan Bing, Brian Kavanagh, Richard Gottfried, Peter Rivera, Vanessa Gibson, Jose Rivera, Naomi Rivera, Jeffrey Dinowitz, Michael Benedetto, Carl Heastie, Carmen Arroyo, Marcos Crespo and Nelson Castro.
In Assembly District 60, which covers parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn, Republican challenger Nicole Malliotakis defeated Democratic incumbent Janele Hyer-Spencer, while Republican Louis Tobacco won re-election in Staten Island's 62nd Assembly District.
It may be days, and possibly even weeks before it is known who has control of the State Senate.
As it stands right now, Republicans have won 30 of the 62 seats. Democrats have claimed victory in 29 and three seats remain too close to call.
Of those three, Democrats lead in two races, and a Republican is ahead in one.
If those races stay as they are, the State Senate would be split 31-31, which would likely mean more gridlock in Albany.
In the 7th District on Long Island, Republican Jack Martins holds a slim lead over Democratic incumbent Craig Johnson.
In the Hudson Valley, Senator Suzi Oppenheimer is also in a neck-and-neck race with Republican challenger Bob Cohen.
And in the 60th District, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 6-1, Republican Mark Grisanti is tied with incumbent Democrat Antoine Thompson.
Republicans tell NY1 they are planning to contest two races in Queens, where Democrats narrowly won.
Grimm Ousts McMahon As GOP Takes House But Not Senate
In the city's tightest U.S. Congressional race, Republican Michael Grimm ousted incumbent Democrat Michael McMahon in the 13th Congressional District that includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. The win helped Republicans gain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, riding a wave of voter discontent that saw the GOP gain at least 56 seats.
The other 12 New York City members of Congress – all of them Democrats – all retained their seats. They are Edolphus Towns, Yvette Clarke, Nydia Velazquez, Carolyn Maloney, Charles Rangel, Jose Serrano, Eliot Engel, Gary Ackerman, Gregory Meeks, Joseph Crowley, Jerrold Nadler and Anthony Weiner.
Across the nation, major Democratic-held seats that fell into Republican hands included those in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and Virginia.
Ohio Republican John Boehner is now in line to oust Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker.
Democrats were able to fend off a total takeover as they maintained control of the Senate.
Nevada Senator Harry Reid kept his seat and position of majority leader after beating back Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle.
Democrats also held on to the seat once occupied by Robert Byrd in West Virginia with a win by Governor Joe Manchin.
City Residents Approve Term Limits
In one of two ballot issues, city voters overwhelmingly supported an initiative to once again limit city lawmakers to two terms in office.
The measure also bans the City Council from overturning the law.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg successfully lobbied the Council to extend the limit from two terms to three so he could run for re-election last year.
Voters also approved a slate of election reforms that includes increased disclosure of campaign spending, a reduction in the number of signatures necessary for the candidate to get on a ballot, and stricter conflict of interest regulations.
At one polling location on the Lower East Side, some voters said they were not told by poll workers to turn the ballot over in order to vote on the ballot questions.
"I got a couple of e-mails that said be sure to turn it over, because it's term limits and it's important," said one voter.
"I didn't know until I looked at the ballot actually," said another.
"Boy, I wish I would have known that. It would have helped," said a third.
Wills Victorious In Queens Council Race
A former City Council aide claimed victory Tuesday night in the seven-way special election to fill the Council's 28th District seat in Queens.
As of early Wednesday polls showed Ruben Wills with a six-point lead over runner-up Nicole Paultre-Bell, the the fiancee of Sean Bell, who was slain by police gunfire in 2006 the night before their wedding day.
Also running was former City Councilman Allan Jennings.
The nonpartisan race was held to replace the seat left vacated by the death of City Councilman Thomas White Jr. of Jamaica.
Voting Process Much Smoother, Mayor Says
Two months after the city's new paper ballot process made a rocky debut on Primary Day, the system received mostly positive reviews
on this Election Day.
Poll workers citywide arrived half an hour before polls opened to make sure the new machines were up and running. The Board of Elections says it retrained poll workers to assist voters, and posted additional instruction cards for the new machines.
Under the new system, enacted as part of the federal Help America Vote Act, voters filled out a paper ballot and scanned it through a machine as opposed to the previous process in which voters made their choices by pushing a series of levers in a private voting booth.
Officials at the city's 311 hotline about election-related issues said that as of 10:30 p.m., 729 voters had called the hotline to complain about ballots and voting machines, 674 called to complain about poll sites and 185 called to complain about poll workers. Approximately 4,266 people had called about how to find a poll site and 1,554 called to get general election information.
Those figures do not include calls made directly to the Board of Elections.
Several glitches were reported at P.S. 282 in Park Slope, Brooklyn early Tuesday morning, where some scanners were down, creating long lines and some frustration among voters.
"Scanners are a little overloaded and we did have some problems, but now the technicians are coming and they're starting to get them fixed and the lines are much, much shorter than they were," said one poll worker.
"Not a problem at all, there was no line, I was in and out in less than 15 minutes," said a voter.
"The new system is a little confusing," said another. "It wasn't scanning my form initially, I had to fill out a new one, but after that, everything was fine."
"I think what will happen is, some people just give up and not vote, and I think that's unfortunate," said a third.
Officials with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NIPIRG) said they witnessed a clear improvement in the voting process over Primary Day. However, they say that issues still exist, in particular with poorly-trained poll workers invading voters' privacy and the small type and poor design of the ballots.
Despite his criticism of the Board of Elections, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he was on board with the new system. He cast his ballot Tuesday morning on the Upper East Side.
The mayor had called the primaries a "royal screw-up" when many voters ran into technical problems and poll workers were unable to help them. On Tuesday, Bloomberg seemed okay with the change.
"The process, in all fairness, was different – smooth," he said. "As you know, I preferred just standing in front of the computer, and being able see all the things at the same time. I don't like the idea you have to turn the ballot over, the print is very small. But we have the system and at this point, we have to make the system work."