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For the first time since the mid-19th century, a Democrat will represent Northern New York in the U.S. House of Representatives.

William L. Owens, the Democratic and Working Families candidate for the 23rd Congressional District special election, won a tight race Tuesday night.

Mr. Owens garnered 61,666 votes, or 49 percent, with 90 percent of the precincts reporting at 1 a.m. Conservative candidate Douglas L. Hoffman came in with 57,073 votes, or 45 percent. Republican candidate Dierdre K. Scozzafava, who dropped out Saturday, had 6,976 votes, or 6 percent.

At his victory speech in Plattsburgh, Mr. Owens thanked the voters.

"You are the ones who proved the elections aren't decided by pundits or polls," he said. "You rejected the false attacks and the partisan divisions and decided that when it comes to confronting the challenges we face, we're all in this together."

Mr. Hoffman conceded a little after midnight.

"I hope what I have shown you and the rest of the world is that you don't have to be polished, you don't have to be poised and you don't have to be a rock star to be a politician," he said to supporters in Saranac Lake. "All of us can step up to the plate and do it, so let's do it."

The two candidates pledged to work together in the future.

"That was an important step to bridging the partisan divide," Mr. Owens said.

The New York Daily News reported there were about 10,000 absentee ballots outstanding in the race.

Mr. Owens will replace John M. McHugh in the House. Mr. McHugh is now secretary of the Army.

On Tuesday night, Mr. Owens pledged to start his job in Washington with working on the economy, providing good-paying jobs, investing in clean energy, protecting dairy farmers, fighting for health care reform and ensuring the strength of Fort Drum.

State Democratic Committee Chairwoman June F. O'Neill credited Ms. Scozzafava and her supporters.

"We predicted when Vice President Biden was here that the way they treated our friend and neighbor, Dede Scozzafava, would result in backlash," she said.

Ms. Scozzafava began well ahead in the race, with 35 percent compared to Mr. Owens's 28 percent and Mr. Hoffman's 16 percent. But by Saturday, she had lost significant ground, coming in at 20 percent compared to 36 percent for Mr. Owens and 35 percent for Mr. Hoffman.

She dropped out then and blamed in part the gap in fundraising late in the race.

Mr. Owens gained complete union support after Ms. Scozzafava stopped campaigning and endorsed him. Unions claim about 110,000 members in the district.

Many in the Republican Party turned to Mr. Hoffman.

Late fundraising by the Democratic and Conservative candidates proved to be significant.

In their only regular filing Oct. 14, Mr. Owens had raised $503,296, Mr. Hoffman had brought in $307,045 and Ms. Scozzafava had raised $250,205. Oct. 14 was the last regular campaign financial disclosure statement with the Federal Elections Commission before Election Day.

Since that time, the candidates are required to file any contributions of more than $1,000 within 48 hours. In those types of contributions, Mr. Owens led the way with $380,207 between Oct. 16 and Sunday. Mr. Hoffman collected $196,300 and Ms. Scozzafava gathered $93,500.

Those numbers do not include contributions of less than $1,000 or help from outside political action committees.

Club for Growth said Tuesday that it and its political action committee spent $645,276 on activities for Mr. Hoffman, including television and radio advertising, mailings and phone calls. Club for Growth's television ad spots numbered 1,597 or about 500 less than Mr. Owens campaign and five more than the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

More than 2,500 Club for Growth members also sent $376,764 to Mr. Hoffman in donation "bundles." So, its total money directed toward the race amounted to $1,022,040.

Mr. Hoffman rode a surge of support from conservatives. He was endorsed by the Club for Growth, a prominent conservative political organization, and many conservative Republicans, including former vice president candidate Sarah Palin, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.

Mr. Owens' win could signal renewed strength among Democrats, or at least reassure them of Republicans' perceived weakness. New York now has only two Republican representatives in its 29-seat Congressional delegation.

"They're in a civil war over the definition of their party," said Paul Blank, a Democratic consultant. "And the extremists have won."

Times staff writers Alex Jacobs and Elizabeth Graham and wire services contributed to this report.

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