McSally’s sally

When they finished counting the votes in Arizona’s Second Congressional District — if I have this right, it’s the redistricted version of the district formerly represented by Gabrielle Giffords — Republican challenger Martha McSally led incumbent Democrat Ron Barber by 161 votes. The final count is subject to a mandatory recount, but we have ground for hope that McSally’s lead will hold up. A tranche of votes discovered after the closing bell slightly increased McSally’s lead; in this sense, at least, it is not necessarily following the form that vindicates Democratic cheating.

The Arizona Republic’s Rob O’Dell reports:

The state’s first-ever general-election recount for a congressional seat will occur in the race between Republican Martha McSally and incumbent Democratic Rep. Ron Barber in southern Arizona, as final vote totals from Pima County had McSally winning by just 161 votes, out of more than 219,000.

A mandatory recount occurs in such races if a candidate wins by fewer than 200 votes. Voters can expect weeks of uncertainty — a recount will not start before Dec.1, the Secretary of State’s Office said.

McSally’s lead grew as votes cast by the final “conditional provisionals” — voters who showed up to the polls with no identification — were counted.

On Wednesday, Pima County officials also dropped a bombshell: They said they found an additional 213 ballots in the tightly-contested 2nd Congressional District race that had not been counted.

The early ballots were found in envelopes that had not been opened, said Pima County Chief Deputy Recorder Chris Roads. The ballots were from voters in the Continental Elementary School District in the Green Valley area.

Those extra Green Valley ballots came from a Republican-leaning area and helped increase McSally’s lead by 28 votes to the final margin of 161, still within the recount margin. More than 219,000 votes were cast in the CD 2 race.

Election experts said McSally’s lead made her a big favorite to win the seat once the recount is completed.

Barber is still looking for help in the traditional source of Democrat sustenance in close races:

But Barber’s camp said the race was still too close to call and hinted that it would seek to have 782 provisional ballots in Pima County counted despite being declared invalid. It was unclear late Wednesday if that meant the Barber campaign would challenge those votes in court. Provisional ballots trend Democratic, statistics show.

McSally’s campaign declared victory Wednesday, issuing a statement saying she expects the results to stand.

The Associated Press said it will not declare a winner in the race pending the recount.

McSally is a retired Air Force colonel and combat veteran. She is an enormously impressive and appealing candidate who stands to make a substantial contribution in the next Congress if her lead proves out in Arizona’s tortuous recount process.

UPDATE: Thanks to the knowledgeable readers who have weighed in below.