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Tight Margin

With all the votes counted in Pima and Cochise counties, Republican challenger Martha McSally has beaten Democratic Congressman Ron Barber by a mere 161 votes out of more than 220,000 ballots cast.

The margin is so tight in the Congressional District 2 race that it falls within the threshold requiring Arizona's first-ever state-mandated recount for a congressional race.

The CD2 race—a rematch from 2012, when McSally lost to Barber by about 2,500 votes—was expected to be close, with Politico calling it one of the most suspenseful House races this year just a week before Election Day.

McSally claimed victory as the last of the votes were counted last week.

"While we still have a recount to go, we expect similar results and will provide the necessary oversight to ensure accurate results," McSally said. "I want to thank the voters again for their support and trust in me and look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work from day one to serve Southern Arizonans in Congress."

But Barber said he wouldn't concede the race until after the recount was completed.

"With the unofficial counting of votes now complete, the result is so close that the law requires an automatic recount," Barber spokeswoman Ashley Nash-Hahn said. "The law is written this way because every election includes some human error, and with an election as close as this one, it is important that we ensure the integrity of the results."

Nash-Hahn also suggested the Barber campaign could consider legal action to include provisional ballots that had been rejected by Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez in the recount tally.

"In Pima County, 782 voters had their ballots rejected, and those votes have not been counted," Nash-Hahn said. "During the legal recount process, we will work to see that every lawful vote is counted and that the voices of Southern Arizona are heard."

Lawyers for Team Barber released affidavits on Tuesday from 130 voters who explained that they tried to vote but their provisional ballots were rejected.

"Every American who is registered to vote and took the time to vote should have his vote counted," said Barber campaign attorney Kevin Hamilton.

Hamilton asked the Pima County Board of Supervisors to delay the approval of the canvass of the election and weigh whether they should take action to try to get the additional votes included in the tally.

But Eric Spencer, an attorney for the McSally campaign, said that the Board of Supervisors did not have the authority to delay the approval of the canvass to consider the inclusion of the rejected provisional ballots. Spencer said the proper venue to consider the rejected ballots would be a challenge in the courts.

The Board of Supervisors rejected Team Barber's request on 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Richard Elias dissenting.

Hamilton declined to speculate about whether Team Barber would take the matter to court.

Rodriguez released a report last week showing the reasons that some Pima County provisional ballots had been rejected. Her roundup showed that 371 voters cast ballots at the wrong polling place, 318 voters were not properly registered to vote, 28 voters did not sign their provisional ballot form, four voters lived outside Pima County, and three voters' identities could not be confirmed.

She noted that another 52 voters cast early ballots and then tried to vote a second time at the polls.

"I will request that the Pima County Attorney's Office investigate all 52 of these individuals for prosecution for attempting to vote twice," Rodriguez said.

Under state law, the recount is scheduled to take place in December, although Secretary of State Ken Bennett could accelerate that process. The Secretary of State's office will oversee the recount in both Pima and Cochise counties as the ballots are once again run through tabulation machines. That will be followed by a hand count of random precincts to ensure the machine is properly tabulating the votes. If the machine count and the hand count do not match up after several attempts, a hand count of all the ballots will take place.

Barber has served in Congress since he won a June 2012 special election to finish out the term of his former boss, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who resigned from Congress in January 2012 to focus on her recovery from being injured in a mass shooting at a Congress on Your Corner event.

In the meantime, McSally has appointed Chris Sheafe, a longtime local developer, to head up her transition team.

"I can't think of anyone better to lead our transition team than Chris," said McSally in a prepared statement. "He's been an active community member for 40 years and has the credibility and knowledge of Southern Arizona that's needed to spearhead our transition going forward."

Natural Selection

Congressman Raul Grijalva wants to be ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee

Congressman Raul Grijalva is making a run at becoming the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee when the new Congress is seated next year.

The current ranking member, Rep. Peter DeFazio, is headed to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

"I seek the Ranking Membership of the Natural Resources Committee as a life-long proponent of responsible environmental stewardship, and as someone with the experience needed to effectively check threats to vital protections that are sure to come under the Republican-led Congress and Senate," said Grijalva, who now serves as ranking member of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. "We all have a stake in safeguarding natural treasures, as well as our air, land and water. I will ensure we live up to those challenges and provide the voice of reason needed to lead Natural Resources Democrats in the 114th Congress."

Grijalva took a run for the ranking member post during his current term but withdrew before the decision was made.

More than 180 conservation, Latino progressive and other groups signed onto a letter supporting Grijalva's bid.

The letter noted that Grijalva is "a champion of core issues critically important to Latino, Native American, Western and progressive communities."

A decision on the post could be made as early as this week.

"Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel," airs every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on KGUN-9. This week's guests include Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lea Marquez Peterson and Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Don Jorgensen.

More by Jim Nintzel

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