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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Democrat clings to lead in Pennsylvania House race

GOP is likely to call for a recount as the gap between the two parties shrinks to just 627 votes

Conor Lamb celebrates with his supporters at his election night party in Canonsburg. Gene Puskar / AP
Conor Lamb celebrates with his supporters at his election night party in Canonsburg. Gene Puskar / AP

The stage has been set for a dramtic finish to the US House race in Pennsylvania where Democrat Conor Lamb clung to a slender lead on Wednesday in the longtime Republican stronghold friendly to President Donald Trump.

Republicans eyed a recount and a lawsuit over perceived irregularities as Mr Lamb, a 33-year-old former prosecutor and first-time candidate, saw his edge shrink to 627 votes out of more than 224,000 cast, according to unofficial results.

The four counties in the Pittsburgh-area district reported they had about 375 uncounted provisional, military and overseas ballots. They have seven days to count the provisional ballots, and the deadline to receive military and overseas ballots is on Tuesday.

With the margin so close, supporters of either candidate can ask for a recount.

The GOP is considering requesting that election officials impound all ballots and machines in preparation for a recount request, according to a person familiar with the deliberations. This person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning.

Separately, Republicans mulled legal action on complaints that party lawyers were prevented from observing the counting of some absentee ballots, voting machines erroneously recorded votes from Mr Lamb, and voters were confused by some information from the state elections website.

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Analysis: Local campaign in Pennsylvania helped Lamb secure Democrats' surprise result

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Officials in Allegheny County, the most populous and Democratic-leaning county in the district, pushed back on Republican claims, saying the lawyers had lacked written authorisation from the GOP and they had received no reports of malfunctioning voting machines.

The race is seen nationally as an indicator of Democratic enthusiasm and GOP vulnerability heading into the November elections that will determine whether Republicans retain their control of Congress.

Mr Lamb has declared victory. Mr Rick Saccone, a 60-year-old Air Force veteran turned state lawmaker and college instructor, is not conceding.

A Marine veteran, Mr Lamb told supporters on Tuesday night that voters had directed him to “do your job” in Washington. “Mission accepted,” he said.

From his opponent came words of defiance: “It’s not over yet, we’re going to fight all the way, all the way to the end, we’ll never give up.”

After the absentee vote count wrapped up on Wednesday, the Republican gained 14 votes, trimming Mr Lamb’s lead just a bit in a district that president Trump won by about 20 percentage points in 2016.

Regardless of the outcome, Mr Lamb’s showing seemed certain to stoke anxiety among Republicans nationwide and renew enthusiasm among Democrats.

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