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February 22, 2024

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Republican wins tight race, spurs a recount

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Republican Rep. Deborah Pryce is moving ahead with plans for her next term in Congress after narrowly winning re-election yesterday with a slim margin that will trigger a recount.

“This has been a hard fought battle,” Pryce said. “It’s been a tough race for both of us.”

Pryce led Democratic challenger Mary Jo Kilroy by 1,055 votes in unofficial results after counties in central Ohio’s 15th District counted absentee and provisional ballots weeks after Election Day.

Pryce suggested it was time for Kilroy to concede, something Kilroy rejected, saying the results are only another step in the process.

“The Legislature has determined that a race that’s this close should be recounted,” Kilroy said. “We’ve been through one count so far, we should take a look at it again.”

Pryce actually lost Franklin County, the district’s most populous county that announced its totals yesterday. But votes she picked up in the two other counties in the district, Madison and Union, helped her keep her lead. Madison also certified its results yesterday, while Union reported last week.

Kilroy, a Franklin County commissioner, had thought the outstanding ballots in Franklin County, including many from Ohio State University students in Columbus, could sway the election in her favor.

The race was one of a few that had remained unresolved across the country since Election Day, when the Democrats took control of Congress.

Pryce joined fellow GOP incumbent Rep. Jean Schmidt in winning a post-election victory in Ohio, delivering good news to a troubled state party that lost control of the governorship, long-held congressional seats in the state and three other key statewide offices.

If Pryce’s victory holds, Republicans will have an 11-7 edge over Democrats in Ohio’s 18-person congressional delegation. Democrats picked up just one seat, the eastern Ohio position left open by the departure of U.S. Rep. Bob Ney who resigned after being convicted on federal corruption charges.

Pryce ended up with 50.2 percent of the vote compared with 49.8 percent for Kilroy in the unofficial totals. Pryce said she’s not worried about a recount changing the result.

An automatic recount is triggered if the difference between the two candidates is less than one-half of one percent.

The secretary of state is awaiting the official numbers due today from the counties before taking the next step, spokesman James Lee said. Once the state office verifies a recount is required, it would notify election officials in the district’s three counties that they have 10 days to complete the recount.

Lee anticipates sending the notification today, which would mean the recount must be done by Dec. 8. He said state law does not require already rejected provisional ballots to be reviewed.

But Don McTigue, a veteran elections lawyer representing Kilroy, said it’s only logical a recount would examine all ballots, including rejected provisional votes.

“A recount is a second look at everything you looked at on the first go-around,” McTigue said.

Pryce’s narrow margin of victory was a change from past elections when she easily won her seat, including 2004 when she had 60 percent of the vote in beating Mark Brown for the second time in two elections.

The Franklin County elections board reviewed just under 21,000 provisional ballots, throwing out about 2,600. Most of the uncounted provisionals were cast by people who weren’t registered to vote or voted in the wrong precinct, elections director Matt Damschroder said.

Since Franklin County is split between congressional districts, not all of the 2,600 were cast in the Pryce-Kilroy race. The board reviewed 10,347 provisional ballots in that race; the exact number rejected in the race wasn’t available yesterday.

Pryce, until recently the No. 4 Republican in Congress, previously accepted victory in the race – one of the season’s nastiest – but Kilroy insisted that uncounted provisional and absentee ballots would lean Democratic.

A seven-term incumbent, Pryce had seen her lead in the campaign turn sharply amid the scandal over U.S. Rep. Mark Foley and GOP leaders’ handling of lurid messages he had been sending for years to male congressional pages.

Pryce had publicly named Foley as one of her best friends in Washington, and served on the leadership team under fire over the matter in the weeks leading up to the election.

Kilroy, active for decades in local politics, campaigned on the Democrats’ winning strategy around the country: the need for change. She sought to link Pryce to the Bush administration’s unpopular war in Iraq, the president’s failed Social Security privatization plan and the mounting national debt.

Pryce countered by labeling Kilroy an extremist and a liberal, and emphasized important but unglamourous accomplishments for the district in her TV ads, such as flood walls and airports. She suggested that Kilroy’s attacks were less than truthful with her “Truth Matters” ad slogan.

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