Add one more new Republican seat to the completed House totals. Educator Joe Walsh, enjoying strong support from the Tea Party movement, has successfully unseated Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL-8) as the remaining absentee and provisional ballots were finally counted yesterday. Walsh leads by only 282 votes of almost 200,000 cast, yet Rep. Bean decided to forego a recount and conceded the race, telephoning Walsh to offer her congratulations.
The IL-8 race may be the biggest surprise outcome of Election 2010 because Bean appeared on no one’s major target list, even though the 8th district is heavily Republican. She first won the seat in 2004, defeating 35-year Rep. Phil Crane (R). Ms. Bean consistently repelled mediocre opponents in 2006 and 2008 until Walsh came from almost complete obscurity this year to score the upset victory.
Overall, the House now stands at 240 Republicans and 193 Democrats with two New York races still undetermined. Two others, TX-27 (Blake Farenthold defeating Rep. Solomon Ortiz; 799 vote margin) and NC-2 (Renee Ellmers unseating Rep. Bob Etheridge; 1,489 vote spread) are subject to an official recount, but the respective outcomes are not expected to change.
Adding Walsh means Republicans gained a total of four seats in Illinois and actually took control of the congressional delegation by an 11-8 count. Redistricting, however, is exclusively in Democratic hands next year, so expect the delegation complexion to drastically change when the new lines are drawn. Walsh will certainly be a prime Democratic target. The state is likely to lose one seat in the 2010 apportionment.
More will soon be known about the New York races since absentee ballot counting finally began yesterday. In NY-1, where GOP challenger Randy Altschuler leads incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D) by 383 votes, more than 11,000 Suffolk County absentee ballots were opened. We hopefully will get a clue today as to those results. In the Syracuse area, the count is again finally moving. Votes from the smaller, more rural counties have been tabulated and Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle’s lead over freshman Rep. Dan Maffei (D) has grown to 729 votes. More than 6,000 votes remain from Onondoga County, an area that tends to favor Democrats. In Election Night counting, Maffei scored 54% of the vote here. Among the ballots remaining, however, the Congressman will have to exceed that total in order to surpass Buerkle. To reclaim the lead, Maffei will have to break 56% among the outstanding votes. Both of these elections are still too close to call.
Regardless of the outcome of this latest round of counting on Long Island and in the upstate region, no winner will be declared until all the military and overseas ballots have been received. Under New York law, the acceptance deadline is Nov. 24th, still a week away. It is likely, though, that the candidates leading the race at the end of the current respective count will hold on through the end, as the ballots still to come will be few in number.
Turning to Alaska where the trends continue to favor a write-in victory for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), counting laboriously moves forward. For the first time, however, Murkowski is officially leading.
It was long believed the trends — she was receiving 98% of the write-in votes — would allow her to overcome challenger Joe Miller (R), but now she has actually done so. At the end of counting yesterday, Murkowski had 92,164 votes to Miller’s 90,448. Miller, however, is challenging 7,601 ballots that have already been counted for the Senator but, so far, he is succeeding in actually removing only a handful of votes from the official tabulation. He is challenging the entire process in court, however. It now appears to be a virtual certainty that Murkowski will end the election with more votes than Miller, and the long-shot lawsuit will likely be his last hope of turning around the outcome. Eventually, Sen. Murkowski will be certified as the winner of this race.