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Republican congressional candidate Nancy A. Naples conceded the 27th District election to Democrat Brian M. Higgins on Thursday night.

Naples' move ended a bitter race that culminated in an exhaustive count of thousands of paper ballots in Erie and Chautauqua counties and stretched 16 days past the election.

Naples, the Erie County comptroller, convened a news conference at Republican Headquarters in Statler Towers to acknowledge her defeat. Though the ballot count had whittled into Higgins' lead, she said, the mathematics no longer offered any hope of a comeback.

"I said from the beginning that the recount would end as soon as it was necessary," Naples said in an interview. "That time has now come."

Though elections officials in both counties were examining paper ballots for the last week, and though Naples had made substantial progress, she and her advisers concluded early Thursday afternoon that any further effort was futile.

Bradley J. Stamm, the party attorney coordinating her postelection effort, said the margin shrank from just under 4,000 votes on Election Night to about 2,800 on Thursday, providing Higgins with a razor-thin margin of about 1 percent.

"With about 5,700 votes yet to be counted, the vote difference was about 2,800," Stamm said, and the margin was too much to make up.

Naples deflected any speculation about future political efforts, pointing to a worsening county fiscal crisis that she must address as comptroller.

"I'm back at my desk working on the problems of Erie County, and they are very, very serious," she said. "We need to work together to solve this."

e-mail: rmccarthy

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