(updated  Nov 3, 2010 at 7:18am)

NEW YORK (AP / WCBS 880 / CBS 2) — A Democratic state senator who vowed to protect the interests of everyday New Yorkers beat a Republican prosecutor Tuesday in the race to be New York’s next attorney general.

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WCBS 880’s John Metaxas reports

With almost 90 percent of precincts reporting, 55-year-old Sen. Eric Schneiderman led Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan by more than 400,000 votes, or 12 percentage points.

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“I believe in being part of a collective that works for the common good,” Schneiderman said early Wednesday.

He thanked several advocacy groups and the labor movement, saying he was ready to stand up against “powerful forces” that denigrate others. “Equal justice under law … This is the essence of what America’s about.”

Schneiderman, a senator from Manhattan’s Upper West Side for 12 years, said he’s led reform efforts in Albany, where the Senate leadership eight years ago tried to redistrict him out of the Legislature. This year he led the Senate investigation that resulted in the expulsion of a fellow lawmaker.

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He was endorsed by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who was elected governor on Tuesday. Schneiderman had strong support in most of New York City. Donovan took a majority of votes in many upstate counties.

Schneiderman, who has broad union backing, had won a five-way primary for the Democratic nomination.

The attorney general, with a staff of about 625 lawyers, defends New York in lawsuits and files suits, monitors charities and sometimes conducts investigations and prosecutions.

Donovan, 53, had vowed to crack down on corruption in Albany. “Tonight we fell a little bit short, but that does not change the fact we need a new direction in New York state,” he said.

Schneiderman said his experience as a sheriff’s deputy, public interest and corporate attorney and lawmaker made him better prepared for the job as the state’s top lawyer.

Donovan is a native of Staten Island, where he has been elected twice. A career prosecutor who was deputy borough president, he said he reorganized the DA’s office to increase prosecutions and said Staten Island is the safest borough in what FBI data show to be the safest big city in America.

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