Pennsylvania’s cliffhanger of a Republican Senate primary is headed for a recount, with the last remaining votes tallied and Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick still separated by a razor-thin margin.
Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman, operating under a state law that requires recounts for elections decided within 0.5 percent of the votes cast, said Wednesday that she will issue a formal declaration ordering county elections boards to begin the process.
Oz, the celebrity TV doctor backed by former President Donald Trump, leads McCormick, a former hedge fund executive, by 902 votes, according to unofficial results Chapman shared at a news conference.
Counties must begin recounting no later than June 1 and finish June 7, Chapman said.
The winner will face Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who won the Democratic nomination while he was hospitalized by a stroke and pacemaker surgery, in the general election to succeed Pat Toomey, a Republican who decided against seeking a third term.
Since last week’s primary, both Oz and McCormick, whose campaigns had spent a combined $25 million on advertising, had projected confidence. In recent days the campaigns clashed over undated mail ballots — a minor voter error — and whether those ballots should ultimately be counted.
McCormick filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to ensure certain ballots aren't disqualified from being counted. The suit says boards of elections in multiple Pennsylvania counties are refusing to count ballots that are missing handwritten dates on the envelopes but arrived in time for the primary last week. In response, Oz's campaign said McCormick’s attorneys seemed to be "following the Democrats' playbook."
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Tuesday afternoon that the RNC will intervene in the lawsuit, tweeting that it is "committed to election integrity and election laws must be followed."
"Pennsylvania law is clear: undated absentee ballots may not be counted. Changing the rules while votes are being counted undermines the integrity of our elections and sets a terrible precedent for future elections," she wrote in another tweet.
Chapman's office, citing last week's federal appeals court ruling that undated ballots should be counted in a previous election, has advised counties to count undated and incorrectly dated absentee ballots while separating them from other votes pending the outcomes of legal challenges.
"Our position is that undated and incorrectly dated ballots should count," Chapman said Wednesday.
There are 860 undated ballots from 65 of the 67 counties that have reported the data to the state, Chapman said. State elections officials also said Wednesday that about 4,000 absentee ballots and 6,000 provisional ballots remain to be counted; they did not provide a party breakdown.
Given the Senate’s 50-50 split and Pennsylvania’s reputation for close elections, the fall contest will be among the country’s most closely watched races.
A loss for Oz, the former daytime talk show host, would be a blow to Trump, who rallied behind him even as McCormick surrounded himself with acolytes of Trump and established himself as a top-tier candidate. Trump’s midterm-year endorsements are being tracked closely as a sign of his influence and staying power within the GOP ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Trump, who continues to falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen from him and has cast unfounded suspicions on Pennsylvania’s primary vote counting, urged Oz to prematurely declare victory last week.
“It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they ‘just happened to find,’" Trump posted on Truth Social, his new social media site, the day after the primary as legally cast votes continued to be tallied.