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The Erie County Democratic chairman Thursday called on Republican Nancy A. Naples to concede defeat and acknowledge Brian M. Higgins as the winner of their bitter race for Congress.

"It's clear that Brian Higgins is the congressman-elect," Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan said. "He won the election fair and square. It's time to get on with the business at hand."

Lenihan's comments came just hours after the Naples campaign went to State Supreme Court to place ballot counting under judicial supervision in a process expected to take about three weeks.

And though Justice Erin M. Peradotto granted the order and established a framework to register objections to the process, Lenihan said the public is tired of the long and expensive campaign that Naples has no chance to win.

"Statistically, it's impossible for Nancy Naples to win this election," he said during an afternoon news conference in Democratic Headquarters in Ellicott Square.

Higgins also repeated the victory claim he made Wednesday morning.

"I prevailed on Election Night with over 4,000 votes, and as additional ballots are counted, I am confident that the margin will increase," he said. "I look forward to going to Washington to represent the hard-working people of the 27th District."

Lenihan and the Higgins campaign quickly jumped on the comments of Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, in Thursday editions of The Buffalo News indicating that Naples' challenges to the vote counting process would not change the results of the election.

"The public has had enough of this election," he said.

Naples has not returned phone calls over the past two days. But campaign manager Cam Savage said the candidate is waiting out the normal vote-counting process and the election's official certification.

"All we want to do is see what the results of the election are," Savage said. "We're looking at it from the perspective that anything can happen. As long as there are considerable more ballots to be counted, it's the right thing to do."

Higgins has a 4,000-vote lead in the 27th Congressional District race, with between 8,000 and 15,000 absentee, provisional and paper ballots to be counted. Naples brought the action and requested court supervision of the vote count because of the closeness of the race.


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