McSally on Threshold; Sullivan Expands Lead; Fresno Hangs in the Balance

With most political overtime races trending toward the Democrats, Tuesday’s fortunes looked more favorably upon Republicans.

AZ-2: In Arizona’s 2nd District, it appears that challenger Martha McSally (R), who lost a bitterly close campaign two years ago, will win an even tighter battle this year.

The final count nears and McSally is clinging to a bare 133-vote lead, but it may be enough to unseat Rep. Ron Barber (D). All of the ballots are now tabulated with the exception of about 200 in Pima County. Since this entity is divided among three congressional districts (59 percent of the county is in District 2), it is likely that only between 110-120 of those votes are from the undecided CD. Even if Barber were to attract 60 percent of this number, he would still fall between 100 and 110 votes short of victory.

While it now appears evident that McSally will lead after all of the votes are tabulated and recorded, the closeness of the finish means that an automatic recount will be conducted. Rarely do recounts change the candidates’ finish order, but only a 100-vote spread of more than 215,000 cast ballots does suggest that eligibility challenges to individual voters could exceed that margin. Still, with Republicans in a strong House majority, the body itself must seat all of its members, and McSally’s chances of becoming the ultimate victor here are now much improved. It will be critically important for her to finish first prior to any recount, and such a result now appears highly probable.

If she does finally secure an election certificate, McSally will join a House Republican conference that is headed to between 247-249 members. Of this Republican number, 244 are secure. The two Louisiana run-off elections are poised to vote Republican, thus bringing the aggregate total to 246. The McSally win pushes it to 247. If one or more of the three outstanding California seats tip Republican, the margin increases even further.

Alaska: At long last, the outstanding ballots are finally being counted in the Alaska senate and governor’s race. The first ten thousand of the newly added ballots have gone Republican challenger Dan Sullivan’s way. Leading by 8,149 votes on election night, Sullivan’s new total expands his advantage over Sen. Mark Begich (D) by an additional 635 votes.

Gov. Sean Parnell (R), while slightly whittling away Independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker’s lead (he now trails by 3,019 votes), is still a long shot to pull out a victory.

Currently, there remain approximately 30,000 ballots to count, and the state is still accepting mailed ballots through Nov. 19. Therefore, we are still several days away from seeing a final tabulation. The state election officials hope to certify the final results by Friday, Nov. 28, the day after Thanksgiving.

Considering these new trends, the Senate race is virtually over. Incumbent Begich now trails by 8,784 votes. Assuming there will be approximately 35,000 more votes to count, Begich would have to score in the 60 percent range just to propel himself to an even plane with his Republican challenger. Considering that he has only about 45.2 percent of the already-counted statewide vote, it is highly unlikely that the remaining ballots would break so strongly in Begich’s favor.

Therefore, after getting a taste of the first wave of absentee ballot results, it appears that former Attorney General Dan Sullivan is heading to becoming the Republicans’ 53rd senator.

CA-16: While two other California races continue on their way to becoming resolved – Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA-7) now trails former-Rep. Doug Ose (R) by 530 votes with approximately 30,000 ballots left to count – Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA-26) has expanded her edge over Assemblyman Jeff Gorrell (R) to 1,038 with about 40,000 votes remaining), the Fresno anchored district of five-term Rep. Jim Costa (D) may become final late today.

With small numbers of votes left in more Republican Madera (722 ballots) and Merced (1,505 votes) Counties, virtually unknown farmer Johnny Tacherra (R) should slightly expand his 741 vote lead. The question is will Tacherra’s margin be enough to withstand what should be a stronger Costa vote coming from Fresno County. About one-third of Fresno County sits in District 16, mostly the city of Fresno precincts. Turnout was much lower in this section of the county than in the more Republican parts. Therefore, it is likely that only around 20 percent of the 20,400 ballots remaining to be counted belong to the 16th.

If Tacherra can expand his lead even to 800 votes from Madera and Merced, Costa would have to command 60 percent of the Fresno vote, just to eke out the barest of victories. While it is possible that Rep. Costa could achieve this type of a margin, it remains to be seen just how the final count unfolds. Still, at this late date in the overtime process, a Republican upset remains a possibility.

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