NEW YORK – Upstart Democrats captured three congressional seats in districts long-held by Republicans, helping their party take control of the House of Representatives atop a wave of anti-GOP sentiment.
The three-seat flip means the 110th Congress will have 25 New York Democrats, including the two senators, and just six New York Republicans.
The Democratic victors included musician-turned-politician John Hall, who co-wrote the '70s pop tune "Still the One," and declared after the win, "When I make a record, it's 110 percent, when I run for office, it's 110 percent."
• Check Your State, Check Your Race by clicking BALANCE OF POWER dropdown menu above.
Hall, a former county legislator, toppled 12-year congresswoman Sue Kelly in the 19th congressional district north of New York City, winning by a scant 3,500 votes out of more than 176,000 cast.
The former frontman for the band "Orleans" was boosted along the way by fellow musicians Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen and others.
Across the state, Democratic candidates rode the coattails of Eliot Spitzer in the governor's race and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Both steamrolled their opponents.
In the upper Hudson River Valley, where the GOP had a massive 80,000-person registration advantage, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand upset GOP Rep. John Sweeney, while Democrat Michael Arcuri won the race for the central New York seat vacated by the retirement of Republican Rep. Sherwood Boehlert.
"The cause is not just about this campaign," Gillibrand told cheering supporters in Saratoga. "We need a balance of power restored in this country."
The changes reflect the disillusionment of the state's moderate Republicans with the national GOP. Many voters this year were angry about the Iraq war, scandals, and the upstate economy.
Republicans were able to hold onto three seats in hard-fought races elsewhere. In western New York, GOP Rep. Tom Reynolds beat Democratic businessman Jack Davis, despite becoming ensnared in the congressional page scandal. And freshman Rep. Randy Kuhl won re-election in his sprawling district, as did longtime Rep. James Walsh in Syracuse.
In conceding, Sweeney said he was lucky to have served the district for eight years, but sounded an angry note about a police report that became public in the final week indicating the congressman's wife had called 911 last year in an apparent domestic dispute.
"It was not a campaign that I designed or planned but Miss Gillibrand now lives in a glass house, so she will live in that glass house," he told supporters. "You all hold her accountable. This has been a tough one for all of us."
Arcuri captured 53 percent of the vote in defeating Republican Ray Meier in a district that has been represented by Republicans for more than 60 years.
"I don't know how anything in the world could ever top this. I'd like this night to go on forever," Arcuri told supporters in Utica.
Meier thanked his supporters and told them not to feel bad.
"It was just not our year," he said. "When you stand up for what you believe in, the fight is always worthwhile. Don't be discouraged."
Reynolds entered his victory party to the tune of "Hit the road, Jack," a not-so-subtle dig at his twice-vanquished opponent. Reynolds won 52.4 percent of the vote with 94 percent of precincts reporting.
"This was a hard-fought race, a tough one," said Reynolds, who still faces the prospect of the loss of GOP control of the House.
Reynolds said he would address the national political picture on Wednesday in Washington.
Davis looked tired and dejected when he appeared before supporters.
"I just wish I had all of your youthful enthusiasm to beat that SOB," he said.
Reynolds spent the past month of the campaign under siege.
He was battered in late September by revelations about the Mark Foley congressional page scandal. Reynolds said he had been told last spring about worrisome e-mails sent by Foley to a teenager. Reynolds said he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert, but Hastert said he doesn't remember that.
Democrats and Republicans poured millions of dollars into races in traditionally conservative swaths of the state they usually ignore because of the state's potential role in shaping the balance of power in Washington. By early Wednesday, Democrats had gained more than the 15 seats needed to win control of the House.
That reversal of majority power will have serious repercussions for several members of the New York delegation.
Reynolds directed the House Republicans' national campaign, and loss of GOP control of the House may weaken his clout in Washington.
Long Island Republican Peter King, who won re-election, will lose the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, a job he had for little more than a year, in a Democratic Congress. New York City Rep. Charles Rangel is in line to become chairman of the Ways & Means Committee, the powerful tax-writing panel.