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Democrat captures Erie County executive race

November 9, 2011

BUFFALO (AP) - Democrat Mark Poloncarz defeated incumbent Republican Chris Collins Tuesday in the race to run upstate New York's largest county.

With about 85 percent of the vote counted, Poloncarz had 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent of the vote for Collins, according to unofficial returns. He becomes just the second Democrat to hold the job in its 51-year history.

Elsewhere around the state, Republican Raymond Walter held a 653 vote lead over Democrat Craig Bucki with 87 percent of the vote counted in the race to fill the western New York Assembly seat left vacant when 12-year incumbent Republican James Hayes retired to take a job in the private sector.

There were still thousands of absentee ballots to be counted.

On Long Island, Democrat Steven Bellone defeated Angie Carpenter in the race for Suffolk County executive. Bellone had 57 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Carpenter, according to unofficial results.

In Erie County, the sheriff's office was investigating 10 absentee ballots that were sent to voters already marked for Collins. The campaigns each tried to implicate the other but police said neither campaign was thought to be involved and they were focused on Board of Elections workers, going so far as to say arrests last week were imminent.

But as of Tuesday, no charges had been filed.

The race took another twist when voters complained about a barrage of robotic calls at all hours of the day apparently supporting Poloncarz. His campaign denied they were making the calls and New York State Democratic Party suggested the calls were coming from Republicans in an attempt to anger Democratic voters.

Last year, Collins, 61, was viewed as a potential candidate for governor against Andrew Cuomo. But any aspirations quickly unraveled when he made a comment that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an Orthodox Jew, was the third anti-Christ behind Napoleon and Adolf Hitler.

Erie County, with more than 900,000 residents, is upstate New York's largest county. The 44-year-old Poloncarz was helped by an enrollment advantage of 290,000 Democrats to 153,000 Republicans and the endorsement of Cuomo while Collins got the endorsement of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Western New York voters also were choosing between Bucki and Walter to fill a vacancy in the 148th Assembly District.

There were six other county executive contests statewide, in Albany, Broome, Dutchess, Monroe, Oneida and Suffolk Counties. Eighteen town supervisors, 17 mayors and two county district attorneys also were being chosen.

The Suffolk County race was expected to be a contest that could have vaulted a popular incumbent into position as a favorite for the 2014 Republican nomination for governor.

But then Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy stunned the political world in March, announcing he would not run for a third term following an agreement with investigators looking into campaign fundraising irregularities.

Levy's exit from the political stage left two longtime public servants, Bellone - the town of Babylon supervisor for the past 10 years - and Republican Carpenter vying for the top elected position on eastern Long Island.

Bellone immediately faces an estimated $135-million deficit and the prospect of laying off more than 700 county workers.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.



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