DENVER – Republican Bob Beauprez said he felt "a tremendous sense of relief" upon learning that he had won the nation's last undecided congressional race, five weeks after the election.
Beauprez was declared winner of Colorado's new House seat Tuesday with 81,789 votes to Democrat Mike Feeley's 81,668. The results were held up by a recount that was automatic under state law because of the slim, 121-vote margin.
Beauprez said he has a new plan for his re-election campaign in two years: "I could win by a bigger margin. That would make it a little simpler," he said.
The GOP victory means the new breakdown of the House will be 229 Republicans and 204 Democrats, with one independent and a seat in Hawaii still to be determined.
Feeley called Beauprez to congratulate him.
"Best of luck as you embark on your new adventure," Feeley said he told his opponent.
Beauprez said the five-week delay was grueling but correct results were crucial.
"It's not my druthers, but before we speed up the count, accuracy is more important," he said.
The 7th District, created in suburban Denver this year because of the state's population growth, is evenly divided among Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated voters. The race was considered a tossup from the start.
The recount was complicated by a new law that allows people to cast provisional ballots if they believe they were incorrectly left off registration rolls. Election officials determine later whether the ballots are valid.
At the end of Election Day, Beauprez led by 386 votes, excluding provisional ballots. When the three counties in the district began deciding which provisional ballots to count, Feeley sued, contending they were using different standards.
One counted all provisional ballots whose voters were deemed qualified; two did not count ballots if voters failed to explain why they should be allowed to vote.
A state judge ruled that all ballots cast by qualified voters should be counted, whether or not they offered an explanation.
When the provisional ballots were counted, Beauprez led by 122 votes. The recount cost him a single vote.