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DA’s race not over till the absentee ballots are in, say Democrats

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CANTON - Talking to representatives on either side of the Republican-Democrat divide after Tuesday’s county District Attorney election is like speaking to people from different universes.

According to unofficial results from the county Board of Elections, Republican Mary E. Rain lead incumbent District Attorney Nicole M. Duve, a Democrat, after winning 51.8 percent of the vote. Mrs. Duve trailed by 695 votes.

But with 1,588 absentee ballots yet to be counted Democrats are holding onto hope and Ms. Duve has not conceded the election.

“It’s not over,” St. Lawrence County Democratic Committee Chair Mark J. Bellardini said Wednesday. “Anything can happen. You can speculate all you want. My suggestion is we wait until the day of the absentee ballots [opening]. I don’t see why she should concede if it’s within the margin.”

The absentee ballots will be counted on Nov. 15.

“It’s within striking distance,” Mr. Bellardini said, “so I think we’ve got to hold our breaths.”

St. Lawrence University Professor Emeritus of Government Robert N. Wells Jr. said that while technically the absentee ballots could sway the election toward Mrs. Duve it’s not a realistic expectation.

“The likelihood of her getting all of those votes is like going to the planet Mars,” Mr. Wells said. “For someone to come up and get 70 percent of the absentee ballots would not be realistic.”

The 695 votes separating the two candidates is a large enough gap, Mr. Wells said, that the absentee ballots will not make a difference. Ms. Rain is secure in her victory, he suggested.

For Mrs. Duve to pull ahead she would have to take home all 178 absentee ballots yet to be counted in Canton, 75 in Gouverneur, 158 in Massena, 131 in Potsdam and 146 in Ogdensburg in addition to picking up others from smaller communities. “Let’s say there were 200 votes difference, then I think the absentee ballots would really make a difference,” Mr. Wells said. “But at 700 you are not going to cut that out, unless these people were all Democrats.”

For his part, St. Lawrence County Republican Committee Chair Thomas L. Jenison isn’t concerned about absentee ballots.

“I suspect a lot of Democrats voted for her,” Mr. Jenison said of Ms. Rain.

Mr. Jenison touted Ms. Rain’s campaign strategy that saw her crisscrossing the county and making her case directly to residents.

“Obviously Mary put a lot of time and effort into this,” he said. “It was not just sending out brochures and spending money on TV ads.”

It was also Mrs. Duve’s lack of public engagement that paved the way to victory, Mr. Jenison said.

“When it got down to how she won the election, the

people who are paying attention to the radio and the newspapers obviously were aware of some of the heavy situations going on,” he said. “[Mrs. Duve] was trying to pass the buck.”

While Mrs. Duve had the name recognition that comes with being an incumbent, Mr. Jenison said, in this case, it appeared that she got complacent.

“Nicole is a great lady,” Mr. Jenison said. “What I understand is she is a good attorney. I think her primary issue was office management.”

Mr. Jenison said that now the focus for Ms. Rain will be on Jan. 1 when she takes over the District Attorney’s office.

“Now Mary will have four years to prove that she can get this situation straightened out,” he said. “It sounds like it will be an onerous situation for anyone to step in. Hopefully she will be able to take the bull by the horns.”

Mr. Bellardini, however, said he isn’t ready to toss in the towel despite the odds.

“I was always worried about the turn out in an off election year,” he admitted.

Of the 58,605 registered voters in the county 18,935 - 32 percent - cast a ballot in the District Attorney’s race.

“When people have the right to exercise their vote and they don’t, that’s sad,” Mr. Bellardini said.

Eight years ago, the last time there was a contested race for district attorney in St. Lawrence County, 25,344 vote in a race that saw Ms. Duve outpoll Gary Miles 14,714 - 10,630.

But despite voter turnout and despite the nearly 700-vote deficit that Mrs. Duve faces, Mr. Bellardini is nothing if he isn’t optimistic.

“I think we’re holding on,” he said. “With that many absentee ballots out it could sway the race either way. I think Nicole is right in not conceding until we have everything.”

——

Staff Writer W.T. Eckert contributed to this report.

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