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Inside Politics

Fight continues for Higgins, Naples

Race undecided in New York's 27th Congressional District

Brian Higgins and Nancy Naples raced against each other 11 years ago for the office of comptroller.
House: NY 27 Updated: 5:34 p.m. ET
Higgins 51%
Naples 49%
100% precincts reporting
Election Results Main Page

(CNN) -- The fight to fill an open seat in New York's 27th District remained undecided on Wednesday.

Republican Erie Comptroller Nancy Naples and Democratic Assemblyman Brian Higgins pulled no punches, while throwing plenty, in their attempt to claim the seat vacated by six-term GOP Rep. Jack Quinn.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Higgins had 137,778 votes to Naples 133,698, an advantage of 51 percent to 49 percent.

Naples and Higgins were adversaries once before, in the 1993 race for comptroller, a race Naples won. Eleven years did little to heal the wounds.

Both candidates played to their strengths, as Naples, a former Wall Street banker, boasted a campaign war chest that through the end of August amounted to $615,000. Higgins, his assets drained by a five-way primary, had just $169,000, but had demographics on his side, as Democrats held a registration edge of 80,000.

Both perceived edges seemed to balance out in the polls.

Naples' financial edge was negated as both parties' national committees infused large amounts of cash -- a total of $2 million had been spent on the race heading into October.

Meanwhile, the mostly Democratic district's voting track record -- while helpful to 2000 Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore, who took the district with 53 percent of the vote -- did not guarantee a Higgins win. Republican Quinn, who had forged close ties with organized labor, was re-elected five times.

Naples sought to make herself more palatable to Democrats, declaring herself an independent voice and stressing her work as comptroller in "rooting out waste and fraud." She also pointed to her Wall Street and small business background that showed she knew "how to create jobs," a significant issue in economically struggling upstate New York.

Higgins played to the area's blue-collar roots by highlighting that he is the son of a bricklayer and a schoolteacher. Higgins also followed Quinn's lead by getting support of labor, including endorsements from the New York AFL-CIO. He also emphasized his opposition to "tax cuts for millionaires," and his support for "rewarding companies that create jobs here in America."

Both candidates hammered their points home in debates and personal appearances, but the frequently aired television spots gave the race a particularly nasty tone.

Three TV stations pulled a pro-Higgins ad that said Naples suggested a $125 million increase in sales and property taxes after Republicans called the ad "an outright lie." Democrats, in turn, demanded that a pro-Naples ad be pulled, charging it wrongly said Higgins voted for $3.5 billion in tax increases, saying there were fee increases included in the sum as well. Both ads came from the national committees.

A mid-September poll of 503 likely voters done for Higgins by Cooper and Secrest suggested he had a five-point lead, 48 percent to 43 percent.

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