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Democratic candidates in close finish to challenge Tom Reed

With all 451 election districts reporting, 26 votes separated the top two candidates in a five-way Democratic primary Tuesday to unseat Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Reed for the 23rd U.S. Congressional District seat in the upcoming November general election.

U.S. Air Force veteran Max Della Pia had 7,022 votes, or 32.34 percent, and former Cornell University IT director Tracy Mitrano had 6,996 votes or 32.22 percent.

Following them in the five-way race were retired cardiologist Linda Andrei, with 15.33 percent of the vote; Ithaca shoe store owner Ian Golden with 13.44 percent; and Jamestown attorney Edward A. Sundquist, with 6.42 percent.

State Assembly Majority Leader Joseph D. Morelle easily outdistanced four rivals in a Democratic primary for the 25th U.S. Congressional District seat formerly held by the late U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter.

Morelle captured 45.29 percent of the vote, with 15,303 votes.

His nearest rival, former TV news anchor Rachel A. Barnhart, had picked up 19.77 percent of the vote, followed by Rochester City Council vice president Adam C. McFadden, with 17.45 percent  and Brighton Town Board member Robin Wilt with 17.35 percent.

The only Western New York congressional district with primary activity this year was the 23rd, represented by Reed.

Since last year, as many as nine Democrats were seeking support for the right to challenge him this November, with the field finally boiling down to the five competing in Tuesday’s primary.

Norman P. Green, Chautauqua County’s Democratic elections commissioner, said the candidates have all worked feverishly over the past several months to line up support throughout the 11-county district.

“We’ve seen lots and lots of activity,” he said.

The Democrats seeking to face Reed face a daunting task, as the former Corning mayor has always been able to handle any challenge – even from more well-known opponents.

His latest campaign finance report shows almost $1.1 million on hand, ready for a general election campaign against a Democrat who must begin raising funds all over again.

The Democrats competing on Tuesday were Mitrano of Penn Yan, a former University of Massachusetts cybersecurity expert; Golden of Ithaca, a small business owner; Della Pia, from Owego; Sundquist, the Jamestown lawyer; and Andrei, of Ithaca, the retired doctor.

Green said Sundquist was endorsed by Democrats in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, but no other county committees have backed any candidate.

Green added he was not expecting a large turnout, noting the relative rarity of congressional primaries in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes counties.

“Even with all this activity, we’re probably looking at turnout of between 15 and 20 percent,” he said.

Andrei, he also noted, has proven the most active of the candidates with six mailings – more than the other four candidates combined. Federal campaign finance records indicate she has spent about $115,000 during the primary.

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