By Justin Sondel
The Tonawanda News
— It will be at least a few weeks before voters in the New York State Assembly’s 145th District find out for certain who will be representing them starting next year.
Election board officials from both Niagara and Erie County said Wednesday there are several thousand absentee ballots that will need to be counted before a winner can be declared in the race between incumbent state Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-Lewiston, and endorsed Democrat Robert Restaino.
Unofficial results released early Wednesday show Ceretto with a lead of 905 votes. Election board officials said there are still 2,833 absentee ballots to be counted, including 2,265 in Niagara County and 568 in Erie County.
Niagara County Democratic Elections Commissioner Nancy L. Smith said the process of counting absentee ballots in Niagara won’t beging until Nov. 14.
Ralph M. Mohr, a commissioner at the Erie County Board of Elections, said the process in his area won’t start until Nov. 19.
Ceretto, who could not be reached for comment on election night, released a statement Wednesday afternoon, expressing confidence that his re-election bid will ultimately prove successful.
“(Tuesday) night, I took in results with my family,” Ceretto’s statement reads. “After (Tuesday) night, we have a 905 vote lead and I expect that lead will grow when absentee ballots are counted. Now that the election is over, the real work starts. I’m excited to continue working on behalf of the citizens of the 145th Assembly District.”
“I am extremely proud of this campaign,” Ceretto’s added in his statement. “We put together a comprehensive plan and executed it. We spoke to thousands of voters; we had an excellent TV, radio and direct mail campaign. Dozens of volunteers canvased every corner of the district, wrote post cards to friends, and marched in parades. I’m so proud of their work and grateful to the voters for giving me another two years to work for them.”
Restaino expressed confidence late Tuesday that he would be the victor once all the votes were tallied. He also acknowledged Tuesday evening that problems in tabulating votes at the Niagara County Board of Elections left the final result of what he described as a “cliffhanger” race in doubt.
“With as much as we know, we are in the slightest of leads,” Restaino told a group of supporters who gathered with him Tuesday night at the American Legion Fredrick F. Cadille Post No. 1664 at the City Market.
As votes trickled in slowly Tuesday night in to Wednesday morning, though, Ceretto edged into the lead.
Despite his election night confidence, Restaino now needs the remaining absentee votes to break nearly 2 to 1 in his favor to oust Ceretto.
The district covers Lewiston, Niagara Falls, Wheatfield, Grand Island and a small portion of North Tonawanda.