Eliot Spitzer was swept into the governor's office Tuesday night, leading a charge of Democrats into New York State's four top elected offices.
"Today was a victory, not of one candidate or one party, but of all those irrepressible optimists who have hoped and dreamed of a resurgent New York," Spitzer said in his victory speech just after 11 p.m. in Midtown Manhattan. "A New York that still exists as a symbol of creativity and ingenuity to all the world — a New York whose greatest days lie ahead."
With more than half the statewide precincts reporting, Spitzer had a lead of more than 40 percentage points over former Republican state Assemblyman John Faso.
For Spitzer, his election to the state's highest office completes a 20-year journey in which he rose from a staff attorney in the Manhattan D.A.'s office to New York State Attorney General and a popular political figure who some say may one day seek the presidency.
Spitzer said he's committed to bringing integrity to his position and looking forward to bringing the same enthusiasm he had as attorney general to his new role in Albany.
"Eight years ago, when I had the great fortune to be elected as your attorney general, I pledged to bring new values and new energy to the office I held," he told his throng of supporters. "On this evening, I make that same pledge of a new beginning for the state of New York. I can promise you there will be no shortage of energy in the months ahead."
In a gracious concession speech, Faso said he gave it a good fight and he is not giving up the ideas his campaign stood for.
"The Republican party must once again stake it's philosophical tent on the grounds of fiscal responsibility, education reform, lower taxes and stronger economy," he said. "I will continue to fight for real solutions to new york's problems. And with your help we will continue to fight to make this state a better place to live, work and raise a family."
Hillary Rodham Clinton easily won re-election as New York's junior U.S. Senator over former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, while former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo won the attorney general's race over former Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro.
In the year's most closely-watched race, incumbent Alan Hevesi survived a political scandal over his use of a state-paid chauffeur for his wife to win a second four-year term. The Queens Democrat beat back Republican challenger Christopher Callaghan with a 20-point victory based on 65 percent of precincts reporting.
"Tonight has been a perfect night for the people of New York State," Hevesi told supporters in his first appearance after several days of laying low.
"Tonight New Yorkers have clearly said that that mistake should not erase 35 years of public service," Hevesi said. But even with the win, he still faces possible removal from office and a criminal investigation.
The defeated Callaghan said he was baffled by voters' judgement.
"This has been a very interesting year, It has been a very interesting campaign. It's been a very interesting result. I cannot help but regard the decision of New York voters as odd," he said.
Clinton had a 40 percentage point lead over Spenser when she took the stage to deliver her victory speech with her husband by her side.
"We have voted to raise the minimum wage for the first time in ten years," she said in reference to gains made by Democratic candidates across the country. "We voted for an end to the deficit that threatens our future. And we have voted for a continuing effort against terrorism but for a new course in Iraq."
"With your help we will move forward," she said to the cheers of supporters, many of whom feel that her landslide victory may be a harbinger of her own presidential aspirations.
"I feel great," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, when asked about the night's results. "We're talking about moving forward a Democratic agenda that suits the needs of the people of New York."
"Our job was to stop George Pataki from punishing the people of New York," said Silver, adding that with Spitzer in place, the Democrats can move forward on issues such as the court-mandated state funding for New York City public schools.
For Cuomo, the son of former New York State Governor Mario Cuomo, Tuesday's victory over Republican Jeanine Pirro marks a resurgence of a political career that was derailed when he lost the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002.
Cuomo, in his victory speech, vowed to continue what he called Eliot Sptizer's work as a crusader against government corruption. "I will never back down," he said. "I will not be intimidated."
Meanwhile, Pirro thanked her supporters in an upbeat concession speech following a campaign that was marred by accusations that she tried to illegally wiretap her husband to find out if he was cheating.
"We fought the good fight, we presented the evidence, and the people have spoken," Pirro said. "They have rendered their verdict, and we accept it."
She said she called Cuomo to offer her congratulations.
"This race has been a success. Why? Because we talked about the issues that I fought for my whole life — fighting for the underdog, never remaining silent in the face of injustice. And so tonight, we stand tall and proud and unbending in our honest defeat."
Also contested today were races for New York's congressional representatives, as well as members of the state senate and assembly.
Nationally, Congress appears poised for the biggest shift in power since Republicans won control in 1994. Projections made late Tuesday night had the Democrats regaining control of the House and picking up three of six possible seats in the Senate.