It's an even more razor-thin margin, but Hubert Vo is still in the lead in HD149.
Houston political newcomer Hubert Vo clung to a narrow lead Monday night in his bid to unseat the state House's most powerful GOP committee chairman.
With about 200 provisional ballots yet to be counted but all other votes accounted for, Mr. Vo, a Vietnamese immigrant and Houston businessman, was 26 votes ahead of Rep. Talmadge Heflin, a 22-year veteran and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, elections officials said. More than 44,000 votes were cast in the contest.
If Mr. Heflin is defeated, the Democrats would hold 63 of the 150 seats in the state House. And for the first time in the 30 years since Republicans began their rise to power in Texas, the Democrats would gain a seat in the lower chamber.
Officials say there's likely to be a recount in the race, which political observers have said was a risky one for Mr. Heflin, whose district is increasingly Democratic.
"We're very happy, and we thought we would prevail," said Karen Loper, Mr. Vo's campaign manager. "We're grateful to the people of the district, and what can I say? The candidate is very happy and very pleased. It was a long and hard campaign."
Republicans reiterated that even if Mr. Heflin loses, they will still have a 87-seat majority in the House and control of the Senate and all statewide offices.
"If it turns out to be true, we're disappointed to see such a great chairman not come back to the House, but we'll have to wait and see from him on what he decides to do," said GOP party spokeswoman Alexis DeLee. "He could still call for a recount, especially since the votes are so close. And if it ends up being the case that Vo takes the seat, then we still have a great majority Republican leadership that is ready to tackle the issues ahead in the coming session."
Mr. Heflin became committee chairman when House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, was elected to the speaker's office in 2003. If he loses, he would be the latest in a series of leaders chosen by Mr. Craddick to be defeated at the polls, including committee chairmen Ron Wilson and Glenn Lewis, both Democrats.
Longtime Republican Rep. Talmadge Heflin, chairman of the House budget-writing committee, trailed his Democratic challenger, businessman Hubert Vo, by 26 votes tonight after officials with the Harris County Clerk's office had gone through absentee ballots. The count continued with provisional ballots, which are used when someone's eligibility to vote is questioned.
Among the ballots were about 189 provisional and 200 absentee ballots from people who voted in the race between Heflin and Vo.
After the count of absentee ballots was complete, Vo led Heflin by a vote of 20,679 to 20,653. Vo's margin over Heflin shrank by 12 votes.
The counting process is usually without much fanfare because races have been decided. The tight race, however, has meant its outcome will be determined by the absentee and provisional ballots.
At least 24 poll watchers, half Democratic and half Republican, were on hand as the ballot review that began Sunday went into a second day.
While they waited, officials with Heflin's campaign and the Republican Party of Texas accused state Democratic Party representatives of harassing and criticizing Harris County election officials for how they conducted the ballot review.
"Our primary concern is to make sure every eligible vote is counted," said Republican Party of Texas Chairwoman Tina Benkiser. "The election officials are doing their job. It's completely uncalled for and casts a pall on the process when the process is working as state law dictates."
Craig Murphy, spokesman for the Heflin campaign, said such tactics have been employed by the Democratic Party throughout the campaign.
But Karen Loper, Vo's campaign manager, denied the accusations.
"If that is happening, and I don't know if that is happening, that has nothing to do with the campaign," she said. "We don't attack people. We believe in the process so we don't do that."
At a rally this afternoon at his campaign headquarters, Vo thanked his supporters and remained hopeful.
"We know what the end result will be. We are confident," he said.