By Jill Colvin, Della Hasselle, Jennifer Glickel and Julie Shapiro
NEW YORK — State Sen. Eric Schneiderman declared victory against Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan Tuesday night in a hard-fought race for the state's top legal office.
Schneiderman took the stage at the Democrats' party in Midtown about 12:15 a.m. Wednesday morning as New York's newest attorney general and said that his win proved that speaking up for justice meant you could win an election.
"This was a campaign of activists and boy did we show what activists could do," Schneiderman told the packed room of supporters. In particular, the former State Senator thanked the pro-choice women's groups, labor movements and efforts by Christine Quinn that helped deliver him a victory.
Just two weeks ago, Schneiderman was leading Donovan by seven points in the polls, but by the time New Yorkers went to vote Tuesday morning, many pundits had expected a race that would go down to the wire, especially with some heavy hitters turning out to stump for the Republican.
"Anything can happen," said top New York Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf before the race.
But Schneiderman, who has spent the campaign trying to paint Donovan as soft on Wall Street and too far right, appeared to have effectively mobilized Democratic voters, especially women who worried about Donovan's stance on reproductive rights.
"Ladies and gentlemen, you may have noticed I'm hard to kill," he said, as supporters cheered.
Schneiderman campaigned heavily with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn throughout the previous week, along with several women's group.
"The conservatives did not sweep America in this race," Schneiderman said early Wednesday morning. "I am running because I am a deep believer in the idea of equal justice under law."
"I am ready to stand up against who seek to divide us."
Donovan conceded to Schneiderman shortly afterward. He said he called Schneiderman, who he referred to as "our" attorney general to wish him luck.
“Tonight we fell a little bit short, but it does not change the fact that we need a new direction in our state, that we need to give the people of NY a reason to believe in their government again,” Donovan said during his concession speech.
Quinn said she was "thrilled" by Schneiderman's win.
"It sends a clear message that what New York State wants is an aggressive, activist attorney general like Andrew Cuomo and Eric is going to live up to that model tremendously," she said.
Earlier in the day, Donovan had rallied with his own heavy hitters, including vocal supporters Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch, all of whom threw their considerable political weight behind him.
Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthan said that Scheiderman's victory was a win for the state as well as the Upper West Side.
"This is a great surprise," she said.
"I think we were all biting our nails," agreed Marty Agaze, 50, a community activist who lives on the Upper West Side.