Image: Mary Jo Kilroy
Kiichiro Sato  /  AP file
Mary Jo Kilroy's victory in the 15th Congressional District seat in Ohio gives Democrats 257 Congressional seats to the GOP's 178, a 79-seat majority.
updated 12/8/2008 8:37:03 AM ET 2008-12-08T13:37:03

Democrats will hold least 256 seats in the House when the 111th Congress is sworn in next month, after a county commissioner came from behind to win an open seat in central Ohio.

Mary Jo Kilroy, a Franklin County commissioner who came within 1,062 votes of unseating incumbent Republican Deborah Pryce two years ago, will be representing Ohio's 15th Congressional District.

On Sunday she overcame a 594-vote deficit to beat Republican Steve Stivers by 2,311 votes after provisional ballots were counted in Franklin County, home to Columbus.

The district is now in Democratic hands for the first time in 42 years.

Kilroy's victory gives the Democrats a gain of 21 House seats, but two races are not totally over.

In Virginia, incumbent GOP Rep. Virgil Goode has requested a recount in his narrow loss to Democrat Tom Perriello in the 5th district. A recount also appears likely in the 4th Congressional District in western Louisiana after Republican John Fleming squeaked past Democrat Paul Carmouche in the race to replace retiring 10-term Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La. Only a few hundred votes separated the two.

If the results stand, Democrats would have have 257 Congressional seats to the GOP's 178, a 79-seat majority.

The weekend news wasn't all bad for Republicans. GOP attorney Anh "Joseph" Cao stunned the political establishment Saturday by defeating indicted Democratic Rep. William Jefferson in Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District, and will become the first Vietnamese-American in Congress. The race was delayed by Hurricane Gustav.

In Ohio, Kilroy got 139,582 votes to Stivers' 137,271, or 46 percent to 45 percent. Two minor candidates split the remaining 9 percent.

"I am very proud to serve our community as the next congresswoman from central Ohio," Kilroy said in a statement. "In Washington, I will work together with both Democrats, Republicans and president-elect Obama to tackle the real problems that our community faces."

Stivers, a state senator, conceded the race to Kilroy shortly after the results were released Sunday.

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"While I am extremely proud of the race I ran, ultimately, is was not enough," Stivers said. "I have called Commissioner Kilroy to congratulate her for her hard-fought victory, and I wish her well in Washington."

The counting of the roughly 24,000 provisional ballots — 40 percent of them cast by voters in the 15th District — went forward after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Friday that 1,000 of the ballots under dispute must be thrown out because of voter error. In a 4-2 decision, the court struck down Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's directive that said the votes should be counted.

Justices said Brunner improperly instructed county elections officials to apply conflicting standards to election law by ruling that the votes should be counted, even though the envelopes failed to comply with legal guidelines set out before Nov. 4.

The disputed ballots contained varying errors on the outer envelope, such as lacking either a signature or a name. Others had the signature or name written in the incorrect space.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati had ruled on Nov. 25 that the state high court should rule on the issue, vacating a ruling by U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley a week earlier in favor of counting the ballots.

The provisional ballots also settled two state House races, both of which were won by Democrats.

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