Former comedian Al Franken is behind Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman by 571 votes and the state is moving toward a recount.
The fate of nine House and Senate races remained unclear through Wednesday as ballots continued to be counted in contested races across the nation.
Senate races in Minnesota, Alaska and Oregon may be headed toward recounts. Georgia’s Senate race, meanwhile, is likely headed toward a runoff.
While Democrats picked up five seats Tuesday night — falling four short of the 60 seats needed for a filibuster-resistant majority — Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matthew Miller said the committee is still focused on the potential pickup opportunities remaining on the board.
“We always said 60 was unlikely,” Miller said. “We’re very happy we’ve picked up five seats already with votes still being counted in some states.”
National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher seemed upbeat about Tuesday’s results, pointing out “we consider it a win if they didn’t get to 60.”
“I don’t think anybody expected us to hold where we held,” Fisher added.
In Georgia, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss appears headed for a runoff after failing to gain 50 percent of the vote in his reelection bid against Democrat Jim Martin. Chambliss is currently less than 1 percentage point below the threshold for an outright victory and may still crack 50 percent if still-uncounted absentee ballots swing his way. But the Georgia secretary of state’s office is preparing to conduct a runoff election scheduled for Dec. 2.
In Minnesota, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman leads former comedian Al Franken by 571 votes. The secretary of state’s office is moving toward a recount, which Republicans seem confident about because the state’s ballots are electronically scanned and not subject to as much interpretation from poll workers. This might enable Minnesota to avoid a debacle reminiscent of Florida’s infamous butterfly ballots in 2000.
“This race is too close to call, and we do not yet know who won,” Franken said in a statement. “We are lucky enough to live in a state with built-in protections to ensure that, in close elections like these, the will of the people is accurately reflected in the outcome.”
Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith is also hanging on by a narrow margin. Smith leads Democrat Jeff Merkley by 9,000 votes, though the remaining uncounted votes come from counties containing the liberal strongholds of Portland and Eugene.
In Alaska, Republican Sen. Ted Stevens is also clinging to a thin margin against former Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat. Few thought Stevens could hold his Senate seat after he was convicted last week on seven counts of corruption. But the longest-serving GOP senator seems to be in a solid position, with a 3,353-vote lead with 99 percent of precincts reporting, though the race has yet to be called due to a high number of uncounted absentee ballots.
House races in Washington’s 8th District, Maryland’s 1st District, Virginia’s 5th District, California’s 4th District and Ohio’s 15th District also remain too close to call and could all be headed toward recounts.
Rep. Virgil H. Goode (R-Va.) was slightly behind in his 5th District race against Democrat Tom Perriello. Both camps were bracing for a recount, though.Republican Tom McClintock is in a similar situation in California’s 4th District, where he holds a 0.2 percent lead over Democratic rival Charlie Brown in the seat left vacant by the retirement of Republican Rep. John Doolittle. With few votes remaining uncounted, McClintock and Brown are also likely looking at a recount.
Maryland Democrat Frank Kratovil, meanwhile, holds a very slim lead over Republican Andy Harris in the race to replace Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, who lost to Harris in the Republican primary. Gilchrest has endorsed Kratovil and has campaigned with the Democrat, who currently leads the 1st District race by less than half a point. The contest will likely head toward a recount, though some provisional ballots remain uncounted.
Ohio’s 15th District may not be decided for more than a week as the county awaits the arrival of provisional ballots. Republican Steve Stivers is currently hanging on to a 321-vote lead over Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy out of more than 250,000 votes counted so far.
In Washington’s 8th District, roughly half of the votes cast in the race between Republican Rep. Dave Reichert and Democrat Darcy Burner have been counted. Reichert currently leads by 1 percentage point, 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent.
Alaska’s at-large House seat also remained uncalled Wednesday afternoon, though Republican Rep. Don Young’s lead of 52 percent to 44 percent made it unlikely he would lose his seat to Democrat Ethan Berkowitz.
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain said the outstanding races are “too close to call at this stage,” though he believed Republicans may hold an edge in several of the districts because of their historic GOP leanings and the high hopes for provisional ballots and absentee votes.