Ellmers lead slightly less in NC Congress race

By Gary D. Robertson

The Associated Press

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge on Friday narrowed the margin by which he trails Republican candidate Renee Ellmers after North Carolina counties double-checked their vote totals Friday, leading to a recount next week.

The canvassed totals approved by the 10 county elections boards in the 2nd Congressional District show Ellmers leading the veteran House member by 1,489 votes out of 189,800 votes cast in the race, according to the tally by the State Board of Elections. Before Friday's canvass, Ellmers led by about 1,650 votes.

The difference between Ellmers and Etheridge represents about 0.8 percent of the vote total — less than the 1-percentage-point margin at which Etheridge can seek a mandatory recount.

The Etheridge campaign wrote a letter to the State Board of Elections last week saying it wanted a recount if the margin was less than 1 percentage point. The letter should satisfy the request requirement, deputy elections director Johnnie McLean said.

Etheridge reaffirmed his request in a statement Friday, with his campaign pointing out that the margin has fallen from 2,100 votes since election night. He gained about 450 when Sampson County officials said they forgot to add results from three early-voting sites.

"Unless voters are assured that the results of the election are accurate then they'll never be sure that the people's voice was heard or that the result is valid," Etheridge said in the statement. "As more votes were counted over the last week, it became increasingly clear that this race is too close to call and a recount is warranted."

Recounts have rarely flipped outcomes in North Carolina. A confident Ellmers was expected to attend new member orientation next week in Washington.

"We have not found anywhere in North Carolina history that a lead this large has ever been overturned as the result of a recount," Ellmers' campaign said in a prepared statement. "At this point, our only concern over the prospect of a recount is the cost to the taxpayers of North Carolina ... we are going forward in preparation to serve the people of the 2nd Congressional District."

The canvassed totals also incorporated provisional ballots deemed to have been filled out lawfully. The two campaigns reported they found no significant problems during the canvass.

If the outcome remains, first-time candidate Ellmers would unseat a seven-term congressman who has won re-election in recent years with relative ease. Ellmers is a career nurse who got an early endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Among other undecided close races, three General Assembly races appeared headed for recounts next week, while the final margin in a fourth race expanded further outside the 1-percentage-point window, giving the victory to the incumbent.

In the 9th state House District, Rep. Marian McLawhorn, D-Pitt, defeated Republican Stan Larson by 348 votes or 1.5 percentage points, according to certified county totals posted on the state board web site. Before Friday, McLawhorn's margin was barely over 1 point.

Republican Jackie Warner asked for a recount in the 45th House District, where she trails Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, by 48 votes, Cumberland County elections director Terri Robertson said. The margin was 24 votes before provisionals were counted.

In the 77th House District, Rep. Lorene Coates, D-Rowan, told the county board she would seek a recount after trailing by 167 votes against Republican Harry Warren, but county elections director Nancy Evans said Coates would still have to ask for one in writing by Monday afternoon. Warren's advantage was 169 votes before Friday.

Incomplete canvassed results in the 50th Senate District comprising eight far-western counties showed Democratic Sen. John Snow of Cherokee County trailing Republican Jim Davis by less than 200 votes, or 0.3 percent of the vote total.

Recounts are expected to be completed before the State Board of Elections meets to certify results Nov. 23.