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Maffei defeats Sweetland in 25th District

Dan Maffei

Updated 12:15 am:

Less than an hour and 45 minutes after the polls closed, Republican Congressional candidate Dale Sweetland entered the Double Tree hotel to tell his supporters it was over. Sweetland told the crowd of republicans that he had called Democrat Dan Maffei to concede the race for the 25th Congressional District. He said he wished Maffei "good luck" and told republicans "we need him to succeed."

Sweetland said it was a "privilege and wonderful experience" to run for Congress. Later, he told reporters that money paid a major role in his defeat. Sweetland raised about $400-thousand dollars, compared to about $2-million for Maffei's campaign. The republican would not rule out another run for office saying he learned "never to say never." He then left the campaign party to say he needed to take a nap.

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Democrat Dan Maffei has won the race to succeed retiring Republican Congressman James Walsh in the Syracuse area.

Maffei garnered 54 percent of the votes with 79 percent of precincts reporting. His opponent, longtime county legislator Dale Sweetland, had 43 percent. Sweetland has conceded the race to Maffei.

Democrats had been counting on Maffei to help them increase their majority in the House of Representatives. The former congressional staffer ran against Walsh in 2006, but lost in a close race.

When Walsh chose not to seek re-election, it made Maffei's task significantly easier.

Action News reporter Jim Kenyon spoke with Walsh this evening. The Congressman said that Sweetland ran a good race, but had trouble getting his message out in the face of Maffei's superior fundraising efforts. Walsh noted that a sizeable portion of Maffei's campaign contributions came from sources outside of the district.

Walsh told Kenyon that he has "a few birds in the hand" regarding his future endeavors, but refused to elaborate further.

Original Story:

After a near miss in 2006, Democrats are looking to recapture the Congressional seat for the Syracuse area after 30 years of Republican control.

Democrat Dan Maffei, 40, an Ivy League-educated, Washington-groomed financial professional, came within 3,400 votes of upsetting veteran Congressman Jim Walsh in 2006. Maffei cast his vote this morning at the DeWitt Community Church. His wife and mother were there supporting him.

"I'm optimistic... everything in the country and in this region indicates people really want change from the same old same old. I've been running for change and representing change now for over 8 years and I really think people are going to choose change today." said Maffei.

The 25th Congressional District is one of four in the state that could flip from Republican to Democrat. Democrats currently hold a 23-6 advantage in the state delegation. The last Democratic representative from the Syracuse area was James Hanley, who served eight terms before retiring in 1980. When Hanley ran, enrolled Republicans outnumbered Democrats 2-to-1. This year, the parties are almost even: There are 153,173 Republicans and 149,066 Democrats in the district.

Republican Dale Sweetland and his wife Susan were also up bright and early. They voted at 7:30 this morning at the Community Center in Fabius. Sweetland pointed out to reporters that he lives in the very southeast corner of the district and it takes him two and a half hours to drive to the northwest corner in Irondequoit.

Asked about his chances, Sweetland replied, "I think there's going to be some upsets today and I think SU football started a week of upsets on Saturday night. I feel good about today... we're glad we ran, glad we decided to do this, we had a great time."

At age 59, Sweetland is a veteran politician in Onondaga County. He is a former Chairman of the Onondaga County Legislature where he served seven terms representing Fabius. Sweetland also served three terms as Town Supervisor.

Until 1997 Sweetland was a farmer and businessman. He got into the race this summer after former State Fair Director Peter Cappuccilli dropped out.

Sweetland has had an uphill climb against Maffei who has raised about two million dollars in his second bid for Congress. That compares to about a half million for Sweetland.

The campaign has been marked by a number of appearances and debates, as Sweetland tried to get out his message of being pro-business, pro-tax cuts, pro life and pro-environment.

Also on the ballot is Green Populist candidate Howie Hawkins, a local activist, unsuccessful in 13 previous bids for elected office. Hawkins says that he is unsure who is going to win the race, but says he has brought some important issues such as green energy, affordable health insurance, and a complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq to the table.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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