RALEIGH -- More than three weeks after the election, U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre finally locked up victory Wednesday, as a recount solidified his slim lead over state Sen. David Rouzer for the congressional seat he has held for 16 years.
McIntyre lost one vote in the recount, bringing the revised split to 168,695 for McIntyre and 168,041 for Rouzer – a difference of 654.
“I am very grateful to have the honor of serving the citizens of Eastern North Carolina,” McIntyre said in a news release Wednesday night. “My commitment has always been to serve the people back home. I have always sought to bring people together – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – to do what’s best for our area.”
Rouzer conceded Wednesday night, saying: “Now that the recount has been completed and the tally of votes is official, we can move forward satisfied that each vote was counted properly and accurately. I have called Congressman McIntyre to congratulate him on a hard-fought victory, and I wish him well as he joins a new Congress that will be dealing with very difficult issues facing our country.”
Rouzer had called for a recount after a tally of provisional votes gave McIntyre a 655-vote lead in the 7th Congressional District, where nearly 337,000 people cast ballots in 12 counties stretching from the Triangle to the coast.
McIntyre’s re-election was a win for the diminishing “blue dog coalition” made up of moderate to conservative Democrats in Congress. But he was the only one of the state’s blue dogs to survive, and the election shifted North Carolina’s congressional delegation from its current 7-6 Democrat split to a new 9-4 Republican split.
An expensive campaign
Rouzer’s loss was also a defeat for national and state Republican organizations.
The Republican majority in the state legislature carved up McIntyre’s longtime district to create one more favorable to a GOP candidate.
The district included Rouzer’s home county but not the incumbent’s base in Lumberton and Fayetteville.
Wilmington was also left out of the mix.
The ensuing campaign drew about $9 million in financial support from both parties and national organizations, making it one of the most expensive House races in the country.
TV ads promoting Rouzer portrayed McIntyre as a close ally of liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama. McIntyre tried to outflank Rouzer on the right, saying Rouzer was soft on immigration control.
Considering the extent of outside interests involved, it wasn’t surprising that Rouzer called for a recount.
Eleven of the 12 counties completed their recounts Monday and Tuesday. Duplin County ran its recount of more than 20,000 ballots from Wednesday morning into the evening.
Rouzer had 24 hours to request a hand-eye count, but he chose not to.
In a statement Wednesday night, he said he was setting aside thoughts of his political future to focus on his business and spending time with family on his farm.
Rouzer had said that he felt compelled to call for the machine recount because it was not only the last House race to be decided in the country but also the closest. He said it was important to make sure that human error did not affect the outcome, noting an election night glitch in Bladen County that had mistakenly given McIntyre about 100 extra votes. The mistake was caught and corrected the following day.
The cost of the recount is estimated at more than $50,000.
Hand-eye recounts would have added another $150,000.