By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas
While Congress remains in recess (the Senate is in pro forma session), our attention returns to the outstanding congressional races of the 2008 election. At least three races should be decided this week, including a runoff for one of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, between incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) and Democratic challenger Jim Martin. Voters in two Louisiana House districts will head to the polls on Saturday to choose the representatives. Meanwhile, votes are still being counted in California, Minnesota and Ohio, as one Senate race and two House races remain undecided.
In Minnesota, incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) is clinging to a 282-vote lead over Al Franken (D), as a recount continues through the middle of the month. Coleman’s lead, which began at 215 on November 5, has expanded, but the race is far from over. The state Board of Canvassers will rule next week on whether to include about 12,000 absentee ballots that Franken’s campaign argues were mistakenly disqualified.
In addition, the campaigns have challenged 3,600 ballots, though Coleman has challenged about 147 more than Franken. The process of verifying those ballots will continue through Dec. 19. So, with 80-percent of the votes counted, there is still too much uncertainty to predict a winner.
The Georgia race has drawn a flurry of national activity, with visits by former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The runoff between Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) and Jim Martin (D) was required by state law, since none of the candidates on November 4 won a clear majority. Martin faces an uphill battle, as heavy turnout driven by Barack Obama’s presidential bid helped bolster Martin’s cause. He cannot count on similar turnout tomorrow.
Four House races remain undecided: the two districts in Louisiana, CD-04 in California, and CD-15 in Ohio. In California, Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock appears to have secured victory over rival Charlie Brown (D), for the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. John Doolittle (R). Brown has not yet conceded defeat, but McClintock’s campaign released a statement saying their vote margin (1,576) is greater than the number of outstanding ballots waiting to be counted.
Ohio’s Supreme Court will be hearing arguments on whether to include 1,000 questionable provisional ballots in the race between Mary Jo Kilroy (D) and Steve Stivers (R) in the state’s 15th district. The candidates are vying to replace retiring Rep. Deborah Pryce (R), who narrowly defeated Kilroy in 2006.
Stivers is currently ahead by 594, but thousands of votes from several precincts have not yet been counted. In addition, the question of the provisional ballots will have to be answered. Finally, an automatic recount is triggered when the margin is within .5 percentage points, and that outcome is increasingly likely.
This Saturday in Louisiana, voters will probably return indicted Rep. William Jefferson (D) to Congress. Due to delays caused by Hurricane Gustav in September, and the state’s election system (primary candidates must win by 50.1%), runoffs pushed the general election back to Dec. 6. Jefferson, indicted on federal bribery charges, faces Republican challenger Anh Cao.
As always, you can find more information on all of these candidates by checking out our Wiki the Vote project. Also, please see our 2008 election results page for information on all of the congressional races this cycle.