Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has withdrawn his concession in a close special election for a U.S. House of Representatives seat, and New York officials have begun counting paper ballots.
Hoffman's opponent, Democrat Bill Owens, was sworn in after he was declared the winner of the Nov. 3 election. Hoffman said on Glenn Beck's national radio show Monday that he's "unconceding" the race.
The latest state Board of Elections results showed Owens ahead by 3,026 votes, not counting more than 7,400 absentee and military ballots. Counts on those and other paper ballots was beginning Tuesday.
The 23rd District is in rural upstate New York and its voters had long been represented by Republicans.
The campaign exposed a schism in the Republican Party. National figures, including former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, backed Hoffman over the Republican nominee, Dierdre Scozzafava. She suspended her campaign just before the election and threw her support behind Owens.
In early counts from the four of 11 counties that have reported, Hoffman gained a net 214 votes over Owens, although he remains behind overall.
Hoffman spokesman Rob Ryan said there's a chance the results could be changed, but he conceded it's "a long shot."
He noted that Hoffman worked on the 1980 winter Olympics, when the U.S. "Miracle on Ice" hockey team stunned the Soviet team at Lake Placid and won the gold medal.
"We believe in miracles up here," Ryan said.
Owens "is looking forward, not backward, and will keep his focus on the needs of the 23rd Congressional District," said Jon Boughtin, a spokesman for Owens.
The counties have 15 days after the election to complete recanvassing, the mandatory postelection count of paper ballots to ensure the voting machines recorded everything accurately and to correct any incorrect counts. The counties don't have to forward the results to the state until Nov. 28, and it could be the end of the month before a final count is certified.
If the count overturns the election, Owens could be removed from office