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Hoffman narrows margin in 23rd special election

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The North Country special election that captured national attention isn't over yet. Bill Owens has been sworn in as the first Democrat to represent the district since the 1850s. But his election night lead over Conservative Doug Hoffman has been trimmed to just over 3,000 votes of more than 140,000 cast. There are still absentee ballots to count. But as David Sommerstein reports, a Hoffman comeback appears unlikely.

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David Sommerstein
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Around midnight on Election Night last week, Lake Placid accountant Doug Hoffman and his supporters saw bad news.  Hoffman trailed Democrat Bill Owens by 5,700 votes with 93% counted.  In Oswego County, Hoffman was just 500 votes ahead.

We had always thought we had to win Oswego big.  That's part of the reason we conceded on election night.

Hoffman spokesman Rob Ryan says that concession may have been premature.  According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, a phone mixup underreported Hoffman's returns in Oswego county by 1200 votes.  The state Board of Election's recanvassing has now drawn Hoffman to within 3,176 votes of Democrat Bill Owens.

Still, that's 150 votes more for Owens than last Thursday, when the state Board of Elections wrote a letter updating the situation to the Clerk of the House of Represnetatives.

Ryan acknowledges a change in the outcome is unlikely.

It's a long shot.  It's a long shot.  Does it make the world different?  Yes.  Does it mean Doug can win this?  That's a question that's still out there.

The deadline to receive absentee ballots is Monday.  More than 10,000 were sent out.  It's not known how many will be received by the Monday deadline.  The absentees would have to tip far in Hoffman's favor to carry him to victory.

The 23rd race captured the attention of the nation's political junkies when the big guns of the Right rallied behind Hoffman.  They muscled and spent moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava out of the race.  In the process, they coined a new verb -- "to be scozzafavaed."

But Scozzafava made waves of her own when she endorsed the Democrat, Bill Owens.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly swore in Owens last Friday, the day before he cast one of the decisive votes on the health care bill.  Rob Ryan says Hoffman would have opposed it.

The real story, I think, here, is how is Nancy Pelosi able to swear in Bill Owens as a Congressman.

Turns out that's simple.  House rules state elections don't need to be certified for members to be sworn in.

In a statement, an Owens spokesman noted Owens has expanded his lead since last week.  He said "Congressman Owens has been hard at work on behalf of his constituents and that will remain his focus moving forward."

State election officials say they'll begin counting absentee ballots on Tuesday. 

For North Country Public Radio, I'm David Sommerstein.

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