Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais held a 35-vote lead over his GOP primary challenger, state Sen. Jim Tracy, as of Friday afternoon, nearly 24 hours after polls closed in the 4th District.
The vote tally fluctuated a bit Friday morning, but Republican operatives and election administrators pointed to close-of-business Monday as the next big ballot counting deadline.
Even then, it's likely the election won't be decided for days — perhaps weeks, they said. The most consequential votes still outstanding are provisional ballots. Voters who failed to bring photo identification to the polls were allowed to cast ballots and had two business days to present their ID at an election commission office. This puts the race in somewhat of a holding pattern until late Monday afternoon.
The next date to watch on the calendar will likely be Aug. 25, the state certification deadline. After that, there is a five-day window for campaigns to challenge the certification. In a nominating contest, the challenges are heard by a state party's leadership — not the secretary of State. In this case, it would be the Tennessee GOP's executive committee.
In a challenge, that committee has the power to rule in favor of a candidate, even if that person did not finish with the most votes, as tallied and certified by the state.
Such a scenario transpired on the Democratic side in a state legislative race in 2008.
Whoever prevails will be favored to win in November. The race is rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.