Barber 133 votes behind McSally in Arizona 2nd

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- Democratic Rep. Ron Barber on Tuesday fell short of the votes he needed to overcome Republican Martha McSally's lead in Arizona's 2nd Congressional District race, but a recount change or the late tally of a small number of outstanding provisional ballots could still possibly swing the race his way.

Barber was trailing McSally by 133 votes out of 220,000 cast after Pima County election officials counted about 2,660 remaining ballots from the district Tuesday. An estimated 200 conditional provisional ballots could still be counted if voters go to the county recorder's office and show needed identification by Wednesday. Not all of those are in the 2nd District.

If the count holds at less than about 200 votes between the candidates, it triggers an automatic recount. That would happen early next month.

McSally said she was confident her lead would hold. Barber said he's not giving up.

"It's not over," he told The Associated Press Tuesday night. "We have a recount coming. Tomorrow we probably have the final votes coming out of the district and we may still be within a hundred or so of my opponent. Recounts can change that and we certainly plan on making sure that every vote is counted."

McSally is a former Air Force pilot who lost to Barber in 2012 but redoubled her effort this year. National Republicans spent millions of dollars to back her, while national Democrats spent heavily to defend Barber.

A recount in a statewide race last occurred in 2010, when Proposition 212 failed by just 192 votes after nearly 1.6 million were cast. The results changed the total for each side by 33 votes but did not change the outcome

Matt Roberts, a spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Bennett, said the swing in the 2010 race was tiny, and he would expect the same to happen if the Barber-McSally race goes to a recount.

"People should trust in the fact that elections officials will come up with the same number or thereabouts twice," Roberts said. "Our election equipment is something that works very well."

The race is one of only five congressional seats still undecided nationally. Three House seats in California and one in New York also remain too close to call.

Barber picked up 162 votes Monday and was trailing McSally by 179 votes on Tuesday morning. But he picked up just 46 votes after the final batch of verified provisional ballots were counted.

McSally's campaign failed in an effort to challenge some provisional ballots on Monday, and both sides have lawyers watching the counting.

She said in a statement that she's grateful for the support she's seen during the weeklong vote-counting.

"There are still ballots left to count, but we are confident that when all ballots are in, our lead will hold," she said. "We will continue to provide oversight of the process until then."

If McSally wins, it will be the only victory out of three Arizona congressional seats held by Democrats that Republicans targeted this year. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema easily won re-election.

Barber had an early lead on election night, but the race swung to McSally early the next day when Cochise County began reporting its results and Barber has never regained the lead.

McSally and Barber faced off in a similar battle during the 2012 election. Barber trailed for days, finally taking the lead on the Friday after Election Day. The race remained too close to call for another week.

Barber had won a special election to replace his former boss, Rep. Gabby Giffords, just months before the November 2012 election. He was with Giffords the previous year in Tucson when she was shot in the head and ultimately had to step down from her seat. Barber was hit in the thigh and cheek.

If Barber loses, he said he's still proud of the work he's done the past 2 1/2 years, especially his focus on veterans and constituent needs.

He then ticked off accomplishments like saving a power plant in Cochise County from closing due to a federal push for a major pollution-control retrofit, reopening a border crossing used by cattle ranchers and saving the A-10 ground attack jet, which McSally flew while based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson.

"It's been the greatest honor of my life," he said of serving in Congress. "To be honest I never expected to have this job. I'm just proud and privileged that I was given the opportunity to serve this community I've lived in for almost all my life."

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