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      Three hotly contested congressional races in CNY

      This is the final day you will be hounded by those political phone calls, or annoyed by all the political ads on TV.

      As we head into the final stretch of the midterm elections three congressional races in Central New York are among the dozens of races 'in play' in this election cycle. Analysis by the New York Times and Congressional Quarterly say the 23rd and 24th Congressional Districts are a tossup. Both organizations list the 25th Congressional District as "Leaning Democratic".As you can tell by watching TV, the national political parties and a variety of Political Action Committees have poured millions of dollars into the local races. In an effort to hold their seats in CNY, Democrats have brought in their big gun, former President Bill Clinton. Clinton campaigned in Watertown today for Bill Owens, was in Utica Friday for Michael Arcuri, and a few weeks ago in Syracuse for Dan Maffei. Analysts expect Republicans to take control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. If that happens, Central New York would be returning to its political roots.For years all three districts were represented by Republicans. In Syracuse's 25th Congresional District, Jim Walsh retired after 20 years in the House following a narrow victory over Democrat Dan Maffei in 2006. In the time since Walsh was first elected the district's voter registration has shifted to give Democrats an edge. After Walsh's retirement, Maffei easily beat Republican Dale Sweetland in 2008.

      Because registration numbers now favor Democrats, this district is listed as "Leaning Democrat". Although Maffei has raised more than five times the campaign cash of Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle, some outside groups have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on anti Maffei ads. A poll released October 17th by Siena College gave Maffei a 51% to 39% advantage. But that was two weeks and a whole lot of negative ads ago, so it could be closer.In the other two districts voter registration numbers still favor Republicans--but they are currently held by Democrats. Republican Sherwood Boehlert retired in 2006 after 24 years. The race to replace him was seen as an opportunity by Democrats in a year when Americans were growing weary of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. In a race that was filled with negative ads financed by outside groups and the national parties, Democrat Michael Arcuri defeated Republican Ray Meier. Today Arcuri is fighting for his life in a race against Republican businessman Richard Hanna. A poll released October 27th by Siena College gave Arcuri a 48% to 43% lead with 10% undecided. The North Country's 23rd Congressional District has long been a GOP bastion. A special election was held last year when the incumbent Republican John McHugh left to become Secretary of the Army. Democrats, fresh off their big victories in 2008 targeted this race for support and money. They were helped when Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava was attacked by conservatives for not being Republican enough. She eventually stopped campaigning and backed Democrat Bill Owens. That helped Owens squeak into victory over Conservative Doug Hoffman. Hoffman wanted to be the Republican candidate but was rebuffed by party leaders and lost a close primary battle to designated candidate Matt Doheny. This race is also listed as a toss-up, and the latest polls bear that out. Owens has a 40%-37% lead over Doheny. Surprisingly Conservative Doug Hoffman, who is still on the ballot but has endorsed Doheny, has 15% with 8% undecided.

      Given how close these races are, the phone calls and commercials will stop, but they will likely be in the news as absentee ballots come into play.