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Latest numbers put Mangano 497 votes ahead of Suozzi

Ed Mangano at his campaign headquarters as the

Ed Mangano at his campaign headquarters as the race for Nassau County Executive is still to close to call on Wednesday, November 4, 2009. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The edge for Edward Mangano continued to grow Wednesday, with the Republican challenger in the Nassau County executive race picking up about 150 votes from a party line that had been overlooked on some tally sheets.

The latest unofficial numbers gave Mangano a 497-vote lead over incumbent Democrat Thomas Suozzi, Board of Elections officials said. With virtually all of the votes now recounted from mechanical voting machines, the main focus in this narrow race will turn to the remaining paper ballots expected to be counted next week.

"I'm very optimistic," Mangano said, beaming Wednesday afternoon as this initial phase of the recounting came to an end. "Better to be ahead than behind."

In a phone interview after Wednesday's counting, Suozzi indicated he was personally prepared for any result.

"I'd rather be up, but the process has to continue," said Suozzi, who is seeking his third term.

Despite Mangano's widening lead, both sides consider it too close to call and Suozzi's supporters expressed confidence that he still might be able to win this race if the paper ballots go his way.

So far, both sides agreed, the biggest surprise of the recount was about 150 votes on the Tax Revolt party line, located on the far end of the ballot, which were not picked up by about 40 machines around the county. Officials said this discrepancy was found by comparing the tally sheets prepared by Election Night inspectors with the actual numbers on the odometer-like devices inside the machines.

In another case, there were also some 50 votes for Suozzi that were mislabeled on tally sheets that were actually cast for the district attorney race rather than for county executive, officials said.

Though county offices were closed for Veterans Day, the basement of the old Board of Elections in a Mineola building was a beehive of activity Wednesday as lawyers, election officials and staffers from both sides carefully followed each twist and turn in the recount process. Regarding Mangano's lead, Tom Garry, counsel to Democratic Elections Commissioner William Biamonte, said, "It could be [497], but we want to make sure we're comparing apples to apples."

Next week, the recount process will go into an even more intense phase, as about 8,000 paper ballots are counted from absentee voters and other voters unable to use machines on Election Day. Both sides will spend Thursday and Friday photocopying those paper ballots, along with accompanying paperwork and the envelopes they came in. Some 400 electronic voting machines for the disabled also will be reviewed Thursday, said Garry and GOP Elections Commissioner John DeGrace.

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