By BRIAN TUMULTY
Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - New York's eight highly contested House races appeared to claim victims on each side of the aisle Tuesday.
Democrats fell short of their goal of picking up as many as four additional seats around the state as part of their long-shot effort to regain control of the House.
Instead, two of Republicans' top targets - freshman Rep. Kathy Hochul of Erie County and Bill Owens of Plattsburgh - were behind in the vote count with some precincts yet to report.
Former Erie County Executive Chris Collins led Hochul by just over 4,000 votes, 51 percent to 49 percent, with about 87 percent of votes counted in a race that could remain undecided until a recount.
Owens trailed Republican Matt Doheny in the state's North Country by almost 2,300 votes, with 62 percent of precincts reporting.
Democrats did unseat freshman Republican Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle of the Syracuse area. Buerkle lost to former Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei, who retook the seat he lost to her in 2010.
In the state's Southern Tier, underdog Democratic challenger Nate Shinagawa of Ithaca was trailing Republican Rep. Tom Reed of Corning in the 23rd Congressional District by 2,322 votes with 80 percent of the ballots counted in what had been characterized as a safe Republican district.
One Republican target - veteran Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter of the Rochester area - won re-election with a decisive 57 percent of the vote over Republican Maggie Brooks' 43 percent, with 99 percent of the unofficial votes counted. Slaughter's tally stood at 165,691 votes to 123,866 for Brooks.
The other highly targeted Democrat was five-term Rep. Tim Bishop on eastern Long Island.
Besides Buerkle, Democrats' top four targets were freshman Reps. Nan Hayworth and Chris Gibson in the Hudson Valley and Michael Grimm on Staten Island.
The Associated Press declared Grimm the winner over Democrat Mark Murphy around 11:45 p.m.
Early returns in the upper Hudson Valley showed Gibson leading Democratic challenger Julian Schreibman, 36,244 votes to 22,002 votes, with 17 percent of votes counted.
Hayworth, however, was trailing Democrat Sean Maloney by more than 8,000 votes with 81 percent of precincts reporting.
Both parties poured millions of dollars into the four races and into contests in four other New York congressional districts that Republicans considered their best opportunities for building on their 240-190 majority in the House (five seats are vacant).
If Democrats won all eight of the competitive races, they could hold 24 of the state's 27 House seats when the 113th Congress is sworn in next year.
Only two Republican House members - freshman Rep. Richard Hanna of the Utica area and veteran Rep. Peter King of Long Island - were considered completely safe.
Hanna declared victory at the Utica Hotel Tuesday night after receiving a concession call from Democrat Dan Lamb. Hanna led Lamb by around 11,000 votes of the first 100,000 votes reported in the district, which covers the Mohawk Valley and Binghamton area.
In New York City, two Democratic state Assembly members were heavily favored to win in races for open seats. The two are Grace Meng, a Chinese-American attorney from Queens, and Hakeem Jeffries, a black attorney from Brooklyn.
Four members of the state's House delegation were not on Tuesday's ballot. Democratic Reps. Maurice Hinchey of Saugerties, Gary Ackerman of Nassau County and Edolphus Towns of Brooklyn are retiring. Republican Rep. Bob Turner of Queens ran unsuccessfully in a Republican primary for U.S. Senate back in June.
No matter who won Tuesday, New York's House delegation is shrinking from 29 seats to 27. Faster-growing states such as Texas and Florida, meanwhile, are gaining House seats.
The redrawing of congressional districts in New York is the major reason there are so many competitive House races.
Independent advocacy groups and political parties have spent heavily on those races. Independent groups have spent an estimated $36.2 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The top race for such spending was in the 18th Congressional District, where Nan Hayworth was challenged by Democrat Sean Maloney, a Manhattan attorney who recently moved to Putnam County. Outside groups spent nearly $5.4 million, according to the latest count.
Outside groups spent more than $5 million in the districts where freshman Republicans Chris Gibson and Ann Marie Buerkle face tossup races.
And outside groups spent more than $4 million in two races in which Democratic incumbents Kathy Hochul and Tim Bishop faced tough re-election campaigns.