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He won, so it's hard to write the political obituary of Arthur Eve. But on Tuesday, Crystal Peoples began sharpening the pencil.

The seasoned pol with friends in high places beat back a muscular challenge by the Erie County Legislature's majority leader, but his victory in the Democratic primary was hard-won, and it exposed a weakness that Eve will either address or watch spread. Or both.

This was the first serious challenge the deputy Assembly speaker has faced in years, and even in a three-way race, he was able to snare more than 50 percent of the vote. But Eve ran scared, calling in help from such powerful friends as Jesse Jackson, who lent his support in a radio ad.

Peoples, meanwhile, ran a grass-roots campaign, bucked the party machinery and still came up with 46 percent of the vote. Complaining that Eve's 34 years of public service have done little to improve the lot of the residents of the Assembly's 141st Assembly District, Peoples clearly struck a nerve.

But Eve is firmly rooted in Albany and in his district. He withstood a determined effort to dislodge him, but it didn't take an especially well-tuned ear to hear the creaks. Whether after three decades in office he has worn out his welcome or he simply needs to be more attentive to his district, it's hard to believe that Peoples, or some other challenger, will not be back two years from now.

In the 57th Senate District, meanwhile, Democrats enthusiastically supported Buffalo Masten Council Member Byron Brown, turning their backs on Alfred T. Coppola, who has held the seat only since spring. If past is prologue, Brown will make an effective and diligent senator, should he win in November -- a likely prospect, given the district's heavy Democratic enrollment.

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