The House District 36 race continues to be a nail-biter. Republican Chere Klein, who was a mere 19 votes behind after last week’s general election, now is nine votes ahead of independent Dan Ortiz. The new numbers come from Tuesday’s count of absentee and early ballots. But, the race definitely remains undecided.
While Klein now is in the lead for the House District 36 seat, she and Ortiz agree the numbers easily could flip back in her opponent’s favor after the next count.
Here’s Ortiz, who says he attended the recent absentee-vote-count in person.
“There are 411 questioned ballots that have been deemed countable so they’re no longer questioned. They’re going to count those. It’s my understanding those will be on Friday,” he said. “That there alone, things could become more definitive or they could end up being even closer. And I know there are some absentee ballots to be counted as well. I think estimates are over 500 and maybe as many as 600 left to count.”
Klein predicts the race will remain close as those additional votes are counted.
“I really expect it’s going to continue to do that. Obviously there’s not going to be a big swing,” she said. “I suspect it’s going to stay tight right up until the end.”
Following the most recent count, Klein holds 3,190 votes, or 49.91 percent. Ortiz has 3,181votes, which translates to 49.77 percent of the votes cast in the district race.
Ortiz says this tight race shows that every vote really does count.
“There are some in the Klein campaign that didn’t quite make it to the polls and they’re probably kicking themselves, and I know that to be a fact for a couple of folks that came to me and said sorry I didn’t make it,” he said. “I’m sorry too, but life is life and people get busy.”
The 1,190 absentee and 16 early ballots counted on Tuesday pushed the district’s voter turnout up to 50.13 percent. That’s an increase of about 10 percent from Election Day.
While the district race remains in limbo, there’s not much for the candidates to do except wait for results. Klein did attend the recent House Majority Caucus organizing meeting. She didn’t get any assignments because the race isn’t decided, but Klein says it was useful to remind other lawmakers of the district’s needs.
“It was mainly making sure they don’t forget that we’re here,” she said. “I worked with all those people, so just touching base again and letting them know what we have down here in Southeast and to look out for us.”
As a Republican, Klein would be part of the Majority Caucus if her campaign is ultimately successful.
Ortiz could ask to join that or another caucus. He has said that if he wins, he’ll seek membership in whatever caucus would best serve the constituents.