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Ontario New Democrat Andrea Horwath won the Hamilton East by-election Thursday night, as voters boosted the NDP back to official party status and sent the message they are disappointed in the province's new Liberal government.

Ms. Horwath, 41, a Hamilton city councillor since 1997, defeated Liberal candidate Ralph Agostino, 42, a real estate agent and school trustee since 1994.

Mr. Agostino was trying to keep the riding in the family following the death of his older brother Dominic Agostino in March from liver cancer.

Dominic Agostino had held the riding since 1995.

Thursday's victory for the New Democrats gives the party eight seats in the legislature - the number required for official status.

That will boost the NDP's budget for research to about $2-million, up from the current $775,000.