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Pennsylvania GOP Senate race is likely headed to a recount

The Associated Press has declared the race too close to call

Television personality Mehmet Oz, endorsed by former president Donald Trump, finished in a virtual dead heat with former George W. Bush administration official Dave McCormick with 95 percent of the votes reported. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
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The Pennsylvania Senate Republican primary is almost certainly headed for a recount after the Associated Press said on Friday that it could not project a winner because the margins were too tight.

Television personality and heart surgeon Mehmet Oz, endorsed by former president Donald Trump, led former hedge fund CEO David McCormick by 1,079 votes with 98 percent of precincts reporting, probably triggering an automatic recount because the margin is less than a half-percent of the votes.

Unless McCormick concedes by noon on Wednesday, the Pennsylvania State Department will officially order a recount that must begin no later than June 1 and be completed by noon on June 7, with the results probably released the next day.

Each county must recount the ballots using a different method than was originally used, which could be by hand or a different kind of device, said Grace Griffaton, a spokeswoman for the State Department in an email. The candidates and a lawyer may observe the recount, she said.

Oz and McCormick have been locked in a bitter, noxious race for weeks, with Trump throwing his support behind a fellow television celebrity he says he’s known for years while other Trump-aligned people like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Trump’s former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, backed McCormick.

They are both vying for the chance to keep the seat of retiring Sen. Patrick J. Toomey in GOP hands. Republicans need to keep the seat in their column if they hope to recapture the Senate majority. In the race’s final weeks, there was concern about a surge from a third candidate, Kathy Barnette, a conservative commentator who made controversial statements about Muslims and gay people. That caused Trump and Fox News host Sean Hannity to decry her lack of “rigorous vetting.” Barnette finished in third place, about 87,000 votes behind McCormick as of Friday evening.

Trump urges Oz to ‘declare victory’ before vote tally complete in Pa.

Because the race was so close, outstanding mail-in ballots from overseas, as well as military and absentee ballots that always take more time to count because Pennsylvania doesn’t allow for them to be opened until Election Day, took on more importance.

Following Tuesday’s balloting, Trump, echoing his rhetoric from 2020, began sowing doubt about the results, suggesting that the mail-in ballots were somehow fraudulent and that Oz should declare himself the winner.

Neither campaign has echoed Trump’s claims of voter fraud, and there is no evidence of any wrongdoing. Trump and his allies have sought to discredit mail-in ballots, which became a more common way to vote as a covid precaution.

Both campaigns this week have been bullish about their chances of winning. McCormick, Oz and their surrogates have all said publicly that they would be ahead once all the ballots were counted.

“Facts show that the counting of valid absentee ballots is very likely to put @DaveMcCormickPA on top in the PA Senate race. This is great news for Pennsylvania and for America,” Pompeo tweeted on Thursday.

There remain about 15,000 ballots to be counted, said a GOP operative associated with the McCormick campaign who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss next steps. The McCormick campaign had hundreds of volunteers and lawyers fanned out across the state in all 67 counties to observe the remaining vote counting and is preparing for the recount.

In an added twist, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled on a case unrelated to the Senate primary that undated mail-in ballots can be counted. State law says voters must sign and date the outside envelope, and ballots that weren’t have been rejected.

The McCormick associate said the campaign plans to alert all the counties of the court’s decision, which could mean thousands of ballots that otherwise would have been discarded would now be counted.