[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/01/art.getty.vote.jpg caption="After the votes were counted last night, Democrat Scott Murphy led Republican Jim Tedisco by around five dozen votes out of more than 150,000 votes cast."]
(CNN) - There's no winner yet in Tuesday's special election to fill the vacant seat in New York's 20th congressional district, and both Democrats and Republicans are trying to simultaneously project confidence - and lower expectations.
As of Wednesday afternoon, according to unofficial election results, Democrat Scott Murphy led Republican Jim Tedisco by 25 votes out of more than 150,000 votes cast.
There are still 10,000 absentee ballots to be counted, only 6,000 of which have been sent back to the board. Officials at the New York State Board of Elections say that local absentee ballots have until April 7 to be sent in, and military or overseas ballots have until April 13. It could take up to two weeks for a winner in the contest to be announced.
The Missouri-born Murphy, 39, is a millionaire venture capitalist. Jim Tedisco, 58, is a longtime New York state lawmaker and ranking Republican in the State Assembly. They're running to replace Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, who gave up her House seat after New York Gov. David Paterson appointed her to Hillary Clinton's former Senate seat.
Regardless of who wins the special election, the Democrats will continue to hold a large majority in the House of Representatives. But what normally would be a local contest with little national interest evolved into an early referendum on President Barack Obama, his polices to jump-start the economy, and the reputations of the Democratic and Republican parties, as both national parties and their congressional committees poured money and resources into the race.
Both parties publicly remain confident their candidate will win.
"When all the ballots are counted, I'll be proud to escort Jim Tedisco down the center aisle of the House to be sworn in as our newest member," House GOP John Boehner told reporters Wednesday morning.
"As votes continue to be counted, we're confident that Scott Murphy will expand his lead," countered Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
But both parties are also trying to paint the district as a stronghold of the opposition party.
"Scott's performance tonight in an overwhelmingly Republican district, where Republicans enjoy a registration advantage over Democrats of more than 70,000, represents a repudiation of the failed politics and policies that Republicans continue to embrace," said Governor Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, last night, in an e-mail to supporters.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele shot back, saying in an email to supporter that "President Obama, Senator Clinton, Eliot Spitzer and Chuck Schumer all won this district, and a Democrat won the last two congressional races. The fact we are in a dead heat race in NY-20 means we are making progress as a Party standing firm for fiscal responsibility."
The 20th is a moderate-to-conservative district that Republicans dominated on the congressional level for decades. Gillibrand first won the seat in 2006, and was easily re-elected last November. While registered Republicans out-number Democrats in the district by around 70,000, but George W. Bush's 2000 and 2004 wins there were narrow, and. Barack Obama edged out John McCain there in last year's presidential election.
Both parties on Wednesday rushed out fundraising emails to supporters.
"Don't let the Democrats steal this election. Less than 80 ballots separate Republican Jim Tedisco and his Democrat opponent. We cannot afford to allow the Democrats to steal this election," says the fundraising email by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
But according to court documents, state Republicans late Tuesday night filed a lawsuit to have all of the absentee ballots impounded. They say the move, not unusual in close contests, is to ensure accuracy.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in their email, responded, saying "just this morning our Republican counterparts outrageously accused Democrats of trying to steal the election. Our legal team is already on the ground fighting back but we need URGENT funds to help cover the costs."
- CNN Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report