Marc A. Coppola kept Mayor Byron W. Brown's old State Senate seat in Democratic hands Tuesday with a solid but surprisingly close special election victory.
The GOP evened the score in another Western New York special election, however, as Republican Stephen M. Hawley of Batavia easily beat Democrat Gary F. Kent of Albion for the Assembly seat vacated last year by former Minority Leader Charles H. Nesbitt.
Coppola, the Delaware Council member, earned a comfortable win over Republican Christopher L. Jacobs, but the margin was much closer than many predicted in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 6 to 1.
Coppola beat Jacobs 7,404 to 5,908, or 56 percent to 44 percent (with a 7 percent turnout), with all but a few districts reporting. That reflected the well-organized and well-financed campaign run by Jacobs, an at-large member of the Buffalo Board of Education.
In a 60th District spread across Erie and Niagara counties, Coppola won Erie County 6,229 to 5,001, and won a closer than expected victory in Niagara County, too -- 1,175 to 907 -- or 56 to 44 percent. He called it a convincing victory.
"As cold as it was, I was obviously concerned," he said. "But all things considered, I am very happy." He said the relative closeness of the election does not raise any concerns in his mind for the September primary.
"Chris Jacobs did a good job of exciting the Republican people of this district," he said. "But the primary will be a completely different scenario."
Jacobs, meanwhile, said he was heartened by the number of votes he received, which he said indicated a substantial crossover vote by Democrats. He called it a "mixed victory" for Coppola.
"It's really positive that we did so well considering the challenges we faced," Jacobs said. "Even in the City of Niagara Falls, which is something like 6 to 1 Democratic, we lost by only about 200 votes."
Jacobs said he believes he could have won had he snared the coveted Independence Party line. He also said he has made no decisions about whether to revive his candidacy for the November general election.
In the 139th Assembly District, Hawley trounced Kent by a 5,256 to 2,898 tally, or 65 to 35 percent. He follows in the footsteps of his father, R. Stephen Hawley, who represented the same district in Albany for 20 years.
Hawley told about 50 supporters in his downtown Batavia insurance office that his victory resulted from two months of visiting 4,500 homes in a district stretching through parts of Genesee, Orleans, Niagara and Monroe counties.
He credited his success to "reaching out to people," and promising to make the state better for people and businesses.
He said he will run for a two-year term in November with a slogan of "more jobs and less taxes."
Correspondent Todd Fielding contributed to this report.