UPDATE: Democrat Bill Owens has been declared the winner in the race for the 23rd District.
The nation focused on a rural swath of northern New York state Tuesday in an unusually relevant special congressional election in which the Democrat sought to exploit a split in Republican loyalties and recapture a seat held for decades by the GOP.
The race started about five weeks ago with three candidates and is ending with two -- Democrat Bill Owens and surprise contender Doug Hoffman, a member of the state Conservative Party.
Republican Dierdre Scozzafava abruptly quit the race over the weekend and backed Owens after Hoffman's supporters accused her of being too liberal for the largely Republican district because of her support of abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
Hoffman started at a distant third and was viewed as a spoiler at best, cutting away at Scozzafava and opening the door for Owens. But promiment Republicans, including former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, endorsed Hoffman instead of the party-picked Scozzafava.