Niagara Gazette — Robert Restaino called his state Assembly race "a cliffhanger" on Tuesday night.
His opponent, incumbent State Assemblyman John Ceretto was nowhere to be found.
While Restaino, the endorsed Democrat, paid a visit to his party's campaign headquarters in Niagara Falls to tell supporters he was on the verge of victory, Ceretto, R-Lewiston, was a no show at a Republican Party election night gathering at the Lewiston Pub on Center Street.
Ceretto also failed to return repeated calls from reporters seeking comment from him on the tightly contested race in the 145th Assembly District.
In the end, it as Ceretto who came out on top, according to unofficial numbers from the Niagara and Erie county board of elections. The Assemblyman finished with a 24,281 to 23,376 lead in the race.
Early Wednesday morning, the county Board of Elections website had Restaino in the lead with an unofficial vote count of 19,784-18,793.
On Grand Island, which is part of the 145th Assembly District, unofficial results from the 13 districts reporting to the Erie County Board of Elections had Ceretto leading 5,488-3,592.
Late Tuesday those numbers weren't available to anyone, though.
Problems in processing vote totals at the Niagara County Board of Elections left the final result of the race in doubt late in the evening. However, Democratic party officials told an enthusiastic crowd that Restaino had about a 2,000 vote lead on Ceretto.
"With as much as we know," Restaino told his supporters, "we are in the slightest of leads. In the 21st century, we have broken machines and websites that aren't loading."
Still, that didn't stop the candidate from expressing confidence that he would emerge as the victor in the race. The victory would represent a significant political rebound for Restaino, a one-time Niagara Falls City Court Judge who was removed from the bench by a state commission in 2008 following a high-profile incident involving a ringing cell phone in his courtroom. He has since worked as a Medicaid fraud specialist for Niagara County and is currently serving as a private-practice attorney in Niagara Falls. Last year, he secured a seat on the Niagara Falls School Board.