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Wilson Ekes Out a Win; Madrid Undecided About a Recount

By Jeff Jones, Trip Jennings And Dan McKay
Journal Staff Writers
    Rep. Heather Wilson edged Democratic challenger Patricia Madrid by 879 votes in the final, unofficial 1st Congressional District tally completed late Friday, bucking a national trend that pushed many other Republicans out of office.
    The four-term Republican incumbent ended up with a total of 105,916 votes, compared with 105,037 for Madrid.
    The final, unofficial tally came as Bernalillo County completed its count 10 days after the Nov. 7 election.
    The two-term New Mexico attorney general's hopes of riding the anti-Republican wave to Washington fell short by a margin of less than a half-percent.
    Wilson declared victory two nights after the election, claiming the margin even then was decisive, and her backers never wavered in their confidence as the vote count wore on.
    "The people of New Mexico have asked me to continue to represent them in the Congress," Wilson said in a prepared statement Friday night. "I am humbled by that trust, and I will work every day to continue to earn it."
    "Mrs. Madrid stood up for what she believed in. We believe in different things, but those who supported her worked hard and I commend them for their effort," Wilson said.
    Madrid did not concede after Wilson's announcement last week, and a spokeswoman late Friday said she would wait for final numbers to come in before deciding whether to concede or seek a recount.
    The Bernalillo County canvassing board is to meet Monday afternoon to finalize the elections results. Madrid spokeswoman Heather Brewer said the Madrid campaign would decide what to do then.
    "Other people can declare victory before all the votes are counted, but we choose to wait and let democracy run its course," Brewer said. "Our perspective is when every vote is counted, when every voter has had their say, that's when the results are final."
    Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera and elections officials in the four other counties that have 1st District precincts— Sandoval, Valencia, Torrance and Santa Fe— said they believed all votes had been counted.
    Herrera said elections workers in Bernalillo County would spend the weekend ensuring all the data-entry work was done correctly.
    "Everything's been entered. We just need to verify the data-entry numbers," Herrera said.
    Herrera estimated that a little more than 500 provisional ballots were disqualified in Bernalillo County— most of them because the people who cast them were not eligible voters in the county.
    The people whose ballots were tossed are being notified and can appeal the decisions next week.
    However, even if all of their ballots were qualified after reconsideration, and all of those voters cast their ballots for Madrid, it would not be enough to change the outcome of the race.
    Brewer said many states that have automatic vote-recount provisions have race-margin thresholds of 0.5 percent. New Mexico does not have an automatic provision for a vote recount, but candidates can ask for recounts.
    Under state law, the candidate would have to pay for the recount in advance. But if the outcome of the race changes because error or fraud is found, the state would pick up the tab for the recount.
    Hoyt Clifton, a longtime New Mexico Secretary of State's Office elections official, said he could recall only one recount in recent state history that changed the outcome of a race.
    He said the race was for a state representative's spot in Chaves County. The margin before the recount was a single vote.
    Madrid would have six days to request a recount after the statewide canvass is complete, and that canvass should be completed Nov. 28, state elections director Ernest Marquez said Friday.
    Under state law, New Mexico counties had to complete their canvasses by Friday. But a state District Court judge approved a Bernalillo County petition to move back the meeting date.
    Democratic congressional candidates across the nation capitalized on the public's discontent with the Iraq war and President Bush to take control of the U.S. House and Senate.
    Wilson has supported the war and Bush, but discontent over those issues in the Albuquerque-based 1st District weren't enough to sweep her from office.
    Madrid had criticized Wilson's support of the war and called for a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops.
    Unofficial Results
    WILSON 105,916
    MADRID 105,037
    MARGIN 879
    1st Congressional District— Final unofficial totals from Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Torrance and Valencia counties
    The Count in the 1st District
Santa Fe1,338611



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