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Schumer, Gillibrand keep Senate seats in Dems' hands

A file photo of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand delivering

A file photo of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand delivering her victory speech at a Democratic election night candidates party. (Nov. 2, 2010) Credit: AP

WASHINGTON - Sen. Charles Schumer cruised to a third term and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand won the job she was handed in an appointment two years ago as New York voters went to the polls yesterday.

The victories by New York's two Democrats - one from Brooklyn, the other from Hudson - aided their party's hold on the Senate even as it saw the House slipping from its grasp.

As soon as the polls closed at 9 p.m., The Associated Press called the races for Schumer and Gillibrand, who came into the election leading their underfunded and little-known GOP foes by double digits.

Schumer was defeating Republican Jay Townsend, a longtime upstate political and business consultant, by 65 percent to 33 percent, extending his 30-year string of electoral victories.

"I love New York!" Schumer said at the New York State Democratic Committee election night party at Manhattan's Sheraton Hotel and Towers.

"Tonight you have given me the opportunity to spend another six years fighting for you," he said. "I promise you, I will not let you down."

Gillibrand was beating her GOP rival, CPA and former Westchester congressman Joe DioGuardi, 62 percent to 36 percent, in the special election for the remaining two years of Hillary Rodham Clinton's term. Clinton left the Senate to become secretary of state.

Victory gives Gillibrand a chance to put her controversial appointment behind her as she runs for re-election in 2012.

Gillibrand Tuesday night thanked those who served in the Senate before her, calling Clinton her role model, but also acknowledged voter frustration.

"We need a new vision for New York, a greater promise of solutions to help the middle class," Gillibrand said at the state party celebration. "It's time for a new approach . . . time to end business as usual."

Yet neither Schumer nor Gillibrand can sit back and savor their victories.

If Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had lost to tea party Republican Sharron Angle, Schumer could have vied with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to succeed Reid as the Democrats' Senate leader.

And Gillibrand must now start running in another statewide election in two years for a full six-year term as senator.

During the campaign, Townsend and DioGuardi tried to tap into voter unrest over the economy, unemployment and the deficit.

Two-fifths of New York voters in AP's exit surveys said they supported the tea party, and they voted heavily for Townsend and DioGuardi. But two-fifths also called themselves moderates. They voted for Schumer and Gillibrand.

Conceding defeat, DioGuardi said, "I will continue the fight in the private sector."

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