Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Howard wins House seat by 16 votes

Updated: Monday, 08 Nov 2010, 9:45 PM CST
Published : Monday, 08 Nov 2010, 5:30 PM CST

AUSTIN (KXAN) - In a photo finish that has left Democrats biting their nails across the state, Texas state Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat, clung to her seat on Monday after a few hundred overseas ballots were counted – crushing the GOP’s dreams of having a "super majority" in the Texas House.

“I had no clue as to what the outcome would be here," said Representative Howard by phone Monday. "We were all just watching and waiting to see. I was prepared for whatever the voter's decided here and I’m extremely grateful that we’ve had the outcome that’s going to allow me to continue to work for the district. So I’m extremely pleased.”

Howard keeps her seat by a mere 16 votes, in an election in which more than 50,000 were cast.

"There was every effort made to make sure it was extremely fair," Howard said. "I thank Dan Neil's campaign for their commitment to making sure every vote was counted. And at this point, every vote has been counted."

Howard's re-election victory comes after the counting of provisional votes and mail-in ballots - a count made necessary by the close call on Election Day.

"We all know that this was a potential 100th vote for the Republicans which would have given them a "super-majority," so in that sense it's very signficant politically," she said. "But, as I've said all along, obviously what my number one concern is, is being able to continue to work for my constituents in House District 48 and I'm honored to be able to do that."

Her challenger, Republican Dan Neil, only lost the vote by 15 on Election Day. A recount is expected. Overall in Travis County, some 3,000 mail-in votes and about 1,051 provisional ballots had to be counted in order to come up with the ballots of HD 48 - with less than 60 votes added to the final tally for that race.

The final vote count:

Howard 25,026

Neil 25,010

The final tally decides the delicate balance of power in the Texas House. Currently, Republicans hold 99 of the 150 seats in the Texas House of Representatives. A Neil victory would have meant a "super majority" for the Texas House GOP - and power to override vetos, pass constitutional amendments and do legislative business without a single Democrat in the building.

“You know we just want to make sure every legal vote is counted," said Neil by phone Monday night. "A recount is one way to ensure that. But we have not made up a decision on that at this point in time. Me and my campaign team will convene tomorrow, talk about all the options and make a decision.”

Neil's campaign must call for a recount before the votes are handed over to the Commissioner's Court Wednesday at 1 p.m. At that point, all votes will be final.

Nothing is ever cut and dried in politics, however. In theory, a Howard victory denies them that power - but in reality, there are usually Democrats who will vote with Republicans on some issues, and Republicans who will split with their parties to vote the will of their districts.

A recount is likely.

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