OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
Victory for the Republican candidate in a hard-fought race for a House seat in the Iowa legislature has come down to a razor-thin finish after a hand recount.
According to the Des Moines Register, Republican Luana Stoltenberg won election to House District 81 after receiving 5,073 votes to 5,062 for Democrat Craig Cooper, an 11-vote margin of victory.
The win was certified by a three-member board, the outlet reported.
“Thank you so much to everyone in District 81 for the honor of representing you in the Iowa House!” Stoltenberg noted in a Thursday Facebook post. “I want to hear what is important to you and how I can serve you these next couple years.”
Cooper conceded to Stoltenberg and accepted the results of the second recount, but he did voice some concerns about the process, the Des Moines outlet noted.
“A year of campaigning, walking many miles of neighborhoods and meeting residents, can be exhausting and oddly lonely but I don’t regret the experience,” Cooper noted, according to the paper, which added:
Cooper said he has “grave concerns” that the Scott County auditor’s initial recount differed significantly from the second recount, which was conducted by a three-member board selected by the candidates. Cooper chose former Scott County Attorney Bill Davis, a Democrat, to sit on the board.
Stoltenberg chose former Scott County Supervisor Diane Holst, a Republican. They agreed on the third member, former Democratic Scott County Supervisor Jim Hancock.
That initial recount, which concluded Nov. 18, showed Cooper leading by six votes. Both candidates also had more votes in the auditor’s count — Cooper had 31 additional votes, and Stoltenberg had 14.
“Thirty-one votes I was given in one count disappeared entirely later and made a difference in the outcome,” he noted on his campaign’s Facebook page.
Scott County Auditor Kerri Tompkins noted that the three-member board conducted a hand and a machine recount of the ballots, noting that the machine recount was “very similar” to an auditor’s recount and that it confirmed the total number of ballots in the race.
Although the numbers changed “a little bit,” Tompkins said that the board’s machine recount found that Cooper was the winner.
But she noted that the board went on to conduct a hand count of the ballots, employing a different process than the one used by the auditor in the first recount. And that hand count gave Stoltenberg the lead.
The board went on to choose the hand recount as the official result.
“The duty rests on the recount board to determine what information they are going to place in their report,” Tompkins said, according to the paper. “So they can choose which results they want to go with.”
Kevin Hall, spokesperson for the Iowa Secretary of State, did not mention the board’s recount procedures in a statement issued Friday.
“The bipartisan recount board members, which include two Democrats and one Republican, have publicly stated they are confident in the results of their recount and we thank them for their efforts,” he noted.
“The Quad City Times reported Wednesday that the board’s discrepancy came from absentee ballots. The board used an elections machine and checked totals by hand, and ultimately found 45 fewer absentee ballots in the district than the auditor reported,” the Des Moines Register noted.
Nationally, Republicans managed to take control of the House but failed to make any gains in the Senate, even losing a seat in a midterm election cycle when normally, the party of out power in the White House does significantly better.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is the odds-on favorite to succeed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), though his victory is not yet assured as he faces a challenge from some members of the conservative Freedom Caucus.
“On the very first day of the new Republican-led Congress, we will read every single word of the Constitution aloud from the floor of the House—something that hasn’t been done in years,” McCarthy vowed late last month, reviving a tradition.