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Eight congressional races still up in the air

Democrats lead Republicans in only two races. Two key statewide contests also remain undecided.

November 09, 2010|By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — Eight congressional races remain undecided one week after election day, though Republicans appear set to add to their historic gains.

Seven races for the House are yet uncalled by the Associated Press, and Democrats were defending all seven. Of that group, only two Democrats lead their Republican opponents, with the average vote differential being fewer than 600 votes in each.

In California's 11th district, two-term incumbent Democrat Jerry McNerney has a 624-vote lead over Republican David Harmer, with absentee and provisional ballots still being counted. In the Kentucky 6th district, Democrat Ben Chandler led Republican Andy Barr by 643 votes.

Of the five incumbents trailing, Illinois Rep. Melissa Bean has the smallest deficit to overcome, 347 votes out of more than 200,000 in the 8th district. Republican challenger Joe Walsh claims victory, but Bean's campaign is waiting for a final count of absentee ballots that won't come for more than a week.

Rep. Tim Bishop trails Republican Randy Altschuler by fewer than 400 votes in New York's 1st district. His campaign was in court Tuesday requesting a hand recount of all ballots.

Other Democrats on the cusp of defeat are Jim Costa (Calif.), Dan Maffei (N.Y.) and Solomon Ortiz ( Texas).

An eighth race, in North Carolina's 2nd district, has been called for Republican Renee Ellmers over incumbent Bob Etheridge. But Etheridge, trailing by more than 1,600 votes, is expected to seek a recount.

If all current leads hold, Democrats would likely hold 191 seats in the new Congress, while Republicans would hold 244. That would be a net gain of 63 seats for the GOP, which will hold the majority in the House for the first time since 2006.

Two key statewide contests also remain undecided. In Minnesota, the gubernatorial race between Democrat Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer appears headed toward a recount. Dayton lead by 8,751 votes at the start of the day. He was assembling a transition team while Emmer was beefing up a legal team. It's a case of déjà vu in a state where the 2008 Senate race was not settled until well into 2009.

The Alaska Senate race is still weeks from being decided, as the state begins sifting through absentee ballots Tuesday. A plurality of ballots were cast for a write-in candidate, and the state is expected to begin working on Wednesday to determine how many were properly cast for incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Republican nominee Joe Miller had about 13,000 fewer votes than the total number of write-in ballots.

mmemoli@tribune.com

Twitter.com/mikememoli

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