SARATOGA SPRINGS - Upstate New Yorkers can now breathe a sigh of relief.
The contentious, expensive campaign for the New York 20th Congressional District seat is over.
But the suspense isn't.
Glens Falls-based Venture Capitalist Scott Murphy and state Assemblyman James Tedisco are virtually deadlocked in the race. Early Monday, they both had exactly 77,225 votes apiece, but recounts late Monday adjusted that total to a 97-vote lead for Tedisco. On election night March 31, Murphy had a 59-vote advantage.
Who's to be the new U.S. Congressman - a question that has garnered national attention - will now hinge on a painstaking count of impounded paper and absentee ballots under the oversight of a state Supreme Court judge. This process is expected to take at least three weeks, and it may be months before results are official.
According to a state Supreme Court ruling released Monday, counting on the ballots was to begin Wednesday.
Both candidates are predicting victory, although there were 6,000 or 7,000 absentee, military and affidavit ballots that remained to be counted this week.
Election officials will be counting military and overseas ballots - which are a substantial number of the absentees - until April 14. Friday, county election boards received a federal court order extending the return deadline for the overseas ballots one week until April 13. Domestic absentee ballots must be postmarked March 30 or before.
Warren County Democratic Election Commissioner William Montfort said the election commissioners across the 20th Congressional District were awaiting further instructions from a state court.
"This thing could drag on for a while," he said.
In this hard-fought election, Tedisco closed a four-percentage-point deficit in the last few days before the vote.
In Murphy's election-night headquarters at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs, well over 1,200 of his supporters celebrated early returns. They had come expecting an upset victory over Tedisco, an established veteran politician. Across town in the Holiday Inn, Tedisco jumped onto the stage and predicted that the outstanding absentee and military votes, which traditionally favor Republicans - would give him a winning margin.