ELIZABETHTOWN - The race to fill the congressional seat left vacant by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-Greenport, is still too close to call, even in Essex County.
After a special election for the 20th Congressional seat held March 31, only 65 votes separated Democratic candidate Scott Murphy from Republican James Tedisco with more than 154,000 votes counted throughout the 10-county district.
Final results of the election now depend on thousands of absentee ballots; the last of which aren't due until April 13.
The case is much the same in Essex County, where unofficial results released April 1 showed Murphy ahead of Tedisco 1269-1026.
Ron Jackson, chair for the Essex County Republican Committee, said the initial results were within the range he expected.
"It would have been wonderful to take Essex County," he said, "but we knew it wasn't going to be as likely."
Five Essex County towns reside in the 20th District: Keene, North Elba, North Hudson, Schroon and Ticonderoga. Murphy won in three of the five, only losing ground in Schroon and North Hudson.
"It's clear that economic concerns were huge for many people," said Essex County Democrat Committee chair Sue Montgomery Corey. "The current economic crisis is hitting every household in some way, and many people talked about the need for leaders who can bring effective solutions that will make a difference here in Essex County and the need for hope."
Meanwhile, the Essex County Board of Elections reports 294 absentee ballots were issued. As of April 3, 174 have been returned, but must remain sealed until after the April 13 deadline for military and overseas ballots.
Jackson praised the work done by the Board of Elections to ensure that Essex County residents overseas were given proper access to absentee ballots.
"When all the absentee ballots and military ballots are counted, I think we'll be much closer to having a split in Essex County," he said.
Still, many area Democrats already see the race as a victory in a traditionally Republican district, and especially in Essex County where Republicans outnumber Democrats by at least two to one in party registrations.
"Essex County used to be a place that the State and national Republicans took for granted and the State and national Democrats ignored because it wasn't possible for them to win here," said Corey. "There's no doubt that Essex County is changing."