One hundred twenty-one votes. That’s the margin that currently separates Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney and Republican David Harmer in California’s 11th district — which is at this point the closest of 10 undecided House races nationwide.
Both McNerney and Harmer are actively raising money as they await absentee and provisional votes to be counted. The losing candidate will likely request a recount after the election is certified, which could take as long as 28 days.
Other undecided House races could take equally as long to be decided, or in some cases even longer. The Republican and Democratic House campaign arms are preparing for potential recounts and observing as provisional and mailed ballots are verified and then counted.
In addition to California, there are undecided races in Washington, Texas, Illinois, Kentucky, Virginia, New York and Arizona. They all involve Democratic incumbents.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is “watching and preparing” as votes are counted, spokesman Andy Stone said, and it is helping the campaigns coordinate fundraising just as it would before the election.
“Right now we’re just deploying volunteers and making sure there is integrity to the process,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Joanna Burgos said.
In both California and Texas there is no automatic recount; individual campaigns must request and pay for them.
The McNerney and Harmer campaigns sent fundraising solicitation e-mails to supporters Wednesday, asking for both their time and money to help pay for the extended campaign. Harmer requested “additional observers to monitor the counting.”
Harmer also asked for money to help keep staff on board. “We’ve exhausted the campaign treasury. Now we need to replenish it,” he wrote.
McNerney consultant Robbyn Umland asked supporters to help the campaign raise $10,000 by midnight Wednesday. “We’re up by 121 votes, but we have to make sure every provisional and vote by mail ballot is counted,” she wrote in an e-mail.
In California’s 20th district, Republican Andy Vidak finished ahead of Rep. Jim Costa (D) by roughly 1,800 votes. However, the total vote count may end up tripling, with well more than 100,000 provisional and mailed votes to be counted.
In Arizona, Democratic Reps. Raúl Grijalva in the 7th district and Gabrielle Giffords in the neighboring 8th district are both ahead of their Republican challengers by a few thousand votes.
The two districts share Pima County, where tens of thousands of outstanding ballots have still not been counted. It’s unknown how many remain from each district.
Rep. Rick Larsen (D) is ahead of Republican John Koster, also the 2008 GOP nominee, by about 500 votes in Washington’s 2nd district. The district votes completely by mail, and envelopes needed only to be postmarked by Nov. 2. Because of that, votes are continuing to arrive at county elections offices.
In southeast Texas, 14-term Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D) is trailing Republican Blake Farenthold by fewer than 800 votes. Texas law allows candidates to ask for a recount anytime electronic voting machines are used in a race, as they were in some counties in the district.
Ortiz said in a statement Wednesday that his legal team is looking at voting discrepancies, and he would wait until all the ballots are counted to decide whether he will ask for a recount.
“If after all the votes are counted and the race is still this close, a recount will be needed,” he said. “It’s simply too early for anybody to be calling this race.”
Few expected a close race in Texas’ 27th district, but major independent expenditures from the 60 Plus Association in the final week of the campaign may have made the difference.
In northern Illinois, Rep. Melissa Bean (D) is a few hundred votes behind Republican Joe Walsh, a tea party favorite. Democrats thought Bean, a Republican target in every cycle since she was elected in 2004, was out of the woods after Walsh upset the establishment candidate in the February primary. Walsh gained steam in the last several weeks of the election.
Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 1 and received by Nov. 16 to be counted in Illinois. The 8th district’s three county clerks then have a few days to report their results to the state board, which must declare its results by Dec. 3. The losing candidate has until Dec. 8 to ask for a recount in up to a quarter of each of the three counties. There is no automatic recount.
In Democratic freshman Rep. Dan Maffei’s upstate New York district, Republican Ann Marie Buerkle trumpeted her lead in the first round of ballot counting Thursday.
“I am pleased to have won the initial count,” she said in a statement. “We are confident that when all eligible absentee ballots are counted that we will remain ahead — and victorious.”
Maffei’s campaign manager said he’s “confident that absentee and military ballots will make up the difference.” New York has an automatic recanvassing process.
In central Kentucky, Rep. Ben Chandler (D) led his Republican challenger, Andy Barr, by 644 votes as of Thursday afternoon, a bigger lead than he had on election night. In Northern Virginia’s 11th district, freshman Rep. Gerry Connolly also has a growing lead over Republican Keith Fimian in the second straight contest between the two.