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Both Candidates Claim Victory In Tight Race For Dean Skelos' Seat

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A tightly contested legislative race on Long Island could determine which party leads the New York state Senate -- and give Democrats a shot at total control of state government.

Republican Chris McGrath and Democrat Todd Kaminsky were vying in Tuesday's special election to replace Dean Skelos, the former Republican Senate leader convicted of corruption last year. It's one of four elections to fill empty legislative seats Tuesday, also the day of the New York presidential primary.

As CBS2 reported, as of 11:15 p.m. Tuesday night, both candidates were claiming victory, but the race remained too close to call.

Democrats and Republicans now hold 31 seats each in the state Senate. Republicans maintain control, however, thanks to the support of a handful of breakaway Democrats who crossed their own party to empower the GOP.

That tenuous agreement could change, however, if Kaminsky hands the Democrats an outright majority. Democrats already hold the executive branch, led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the majority of seats in the state Assembly.

With his wife by his side, McGrath voted at Hewlett High School Tuesday morning. He said he is pleased with his lead in the polls, but said people have to get out to actually vote for him to win this race, WCBS 880's Sophia Hall reported.

McGrath, an attorney, has said he's the better representative for Long Island. He has said that if Kaminsky is elected, state government could fall under the control of Democratic leaders from New York City.

"The balance of power in New York state rests on this," McGrath, of Hewlett, said. "This is the most important race in New York state history, and I'm glad to be the Republican candidate to keep this Senate Republican."

Kaminsky, who now serves in the Assembly, is a former corruption prosecutor who has campaigned on the need to clean up Albany following the conviction of Skelos and others. The former legislative leader was found guilty of using his influence to arrange jobs and payments for his son, Adam. The two will be sentenced on April 28.

Kaminsky has gotten some help from his friends in high places. Robo calls went out to voters from President Obama, and the candidate's great-uncle Mel Brooks.

Kaminsky voted Tuesday morning in Long Beach. Although behind by single digits in some recent polls, he said he believed undecided voters will turn his way, WCBS 880's Mike Xirinachs reported.

As TV 10/55's Carolyn Gusoff reported, Kaminsky said voter turnout would be key for him to win.

"I knocked on doors every day all over the district, probably knocked on about 2,000 doors in this race, and I try to talk about my vision for cleaning up Albany and making sure we have a fighter for Long Island and people have been receptive to that," he said.

CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported Monday that polls are showing it may be too close to call with 5 to 8 percentage points separating Kaminsky and McGrath.

Republicans called it desperation that President Obama made robo calls for Kaminsky.

There was a great deal of intrigue surrounding whether McGrath, a 57-year-old political newcomer, could get around the ads that have linked him closely to Skelos.

McGrath said he would not give up working for his Garden City law firm where he is a partner. The firm has been linked to controversial cases by opponents.

While the race has been hard fought the candidates may have to do it all over again in November, when Skelos' term would have expired. The winner on Tuesday, will have to seek re-election in a few short months.

Another legislative race decided Tuesday is in the Manhattan Assembly district that had been represented by former Democratic Speaker Sheldon Silver, who also was convicted of corruption last year. Democrat Alice Cancel was the projected winner beating back a strong challenge by Yuh-Line Niou who ran on the 'Working Families Party' ballot.

The two other races have attracted less attention outside their districts. Republican Ronald Castorina Jr. ran unopposed for an Assembly seat on Staten Island vacated by Joseph Borelli when he was elected to the New York City Council. The other is a Brooklyn Assembly seat where Democrat Jaime Williams faces Republican Jeffrey Ferretti for the seat left empty when Roxanne Persaud was elected to the Senate last fall.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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