Final House Tally Remains Unresolved

More than two weeks after the Nov. 6 election, several House races remain undecided. Races in Ohio and Texas are of particular interest.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

In this country, results are still trickling in from this month's midterm elections. Some races for seats in the House have yet to be decided, and keep in mind that these returns will not change control of the House.

NPR's senior national correspondent Linda Wertheimer joins us in the studio for an update. And Linda, election night ended with about ten races still to be decided. Most of them have now been declared in the last two weeks, so what's left?

LINDA WERTHEIMER: Well, there's Ohio, which has experienced a kind of political earthquake and they're still feeling aftershocks, two races on the undecided list. Although incumbents were ahead in both of them. The incumbent Republican Congresswoman Jean Schmidt was declared the winner yesterday in a very Republican district. It's the affluent suburbs, Cincinnati and the southern part of the state.

The other is Deborah Price. She's a highly regarded Republican incumbent from the middle of the state, Columbus. In both Ohio races, there were thousands of uncounted absentee and provisional ballots. And in the Price district, there is also concern about the way election officials were applying the law requiring voters to identify themselves. So that is going to take a little longer maybe into next week. But look for Price to pull it out.

NORRIS: And there are some timing issues involved in this recount?

WERTHEIMER: Yeah, these are the delayed districts. The law stipulated that recounts could not begin until a certain number of days had passed. And election officials didn't realized it they'd be counting on the day of Ohio State/Michigan game. So they just postponed the whole shooting match.

NORRIS: Now there are a couple of other loose ends, a race in North Carolina, which is also being recounted.

WERTHEIMER: Republican Congressman Robert Hayes is leading his Democratic challenger by about 300 votes. That was close enough for a recount and Democrat Larry Kissell asked for one. Hayes is leading in the recount, which just started and should be over quite soon. Kissell basically kind of came out of left field. He's a school teacher. He picked up voters who are very concerned about job losses in the district in the southern part of the state, made this a very close race.

NORRIS: One of a few school teachers headed to Washington, and there are the runoffs, which won't be decided for a while.

WERTHEIMER: Two runoffs, right. In New Orleans, two Democrats are in a runoff. The incumbent Congressman William Jefferson and Karen Carter, who's a state rep from New Orleans. Like Mr. Jefferson, she's African American. He is being investigated by the FBI. You will remember the cash in the freezer incident. That probably gives her an advantage in the runoff, which is December 9th.

NORRIS: And let us not forget about Texas.

WERTHEIMER: Of course not, where there is another runoff between Henry Bonilla, the incumbent Republican, and Ciro Rodriguez, a former member of Congress, a Democrat, who also served in San Antonio until the famous redistricting ordered by the former majority leader, Tom DeLay, which was designed to increase the number of Republicans elected to the House. And did that. Courts found that the 23rd District was unfair to Hispanic voters, so it was redrawn and this is the first race - the first election in the redraw.

As redrawn, this district is larger than some countries. It starts in San Antonio, curls around the Big Bend following the Rio Grand West. It stops just short of El Paso. Much of the Mexican border is the southern border of this district. So November 7th was a combination election day and Democratic primary with Bonilla on the GOP side of the ballot - six Democrats and one independent also in the ballot. Bonilla needed more than 50 percent to win outright. And he didn't get it. He's still favored. It's a very conservative area.

NORRIS: Well, if we could just quickly get to Florida because we would be remiss if we talk about recounts and did not quickly mentioned Florida.

WERTHEIMER: Katherine Harris, she had the hanging chance. This is her seat and most likely the Republicans will hold it for the newbie, Vern Buchanan. But Christine Jennings has not given up. She's called in the lawyers and gone to court in final Florida style.

NORRIS: Thank you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: You're very welcome.

NORRIS: That was NPR's Linda Wertheimer.

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