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

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Talking to Republicans and Democrats after Tuesday’s election for St. Lawrence County district attorney is like speaking to people from different universes.

Republican challenger Mary E. Rain won with 51.8 percent of the vote compared with 48 percent for Democratic incumbent Nicole M. Duve, according to unofficial results from the county Board of Elections. Mrs. Duve trailed by 695 votes.

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

“It’s not over,” county Democratic Committee Chairman 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,” which will be counted Nov. 15. “I don’t see why she should concede if it’s within the margin.”

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

That’s not the advice that St. Lawrence University professor emeritus of government Robert N. Wells Jr. would give to Ms. Duve.

“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.”

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.”

County Republican Committee Chairman Thomas L. Jenison said he is not concerned about the absentee ballots.

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

Mr. Jenison credited Ms. Rain’s campaign strategy, which saw her crisscrossing the county to make her case to residents directly.

“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.”

He said a lack of public engagement by Mrs. Duve also helped Ms. Rain.

“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,” he said.

While Mrs. Duve had the name recognition that comes from being an incumbent, it appeared she became complacent, Mr. Jenison said.

“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.”

If the final count confirms Ms. Rain’s victory, she will take over the district attorney’s office Jan. 1.

“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 lamented low voter turnout.

Of the 58,605 registered voters in the county, 18,935 cast ballots 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.

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