Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pa. House control hinges on Chester County Race

Control of the state House of Representatives came down Wednesday to a single race -- the contest for a Chester County seat left open by the retirement of a 15-term Republican.

Republican Shannon Royer was clinging to an unofficial 19-vote lead over Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith, but county elections officials said poll workers mistakenly failed to count about 250 absentee ballots on election night and that about 40 provisional ballots also were uncounted.

It could be more than a week before all the votes -- along with overseas and military ballots -- are included in the results, Chester County elections director Linda Cummings said Wednesday. The seat was held by Rep. Elinor Z. Taylor for three decades.

In House races called Wednesday by The Associated Press, Republican Carl Mantz beat Democrat Archie Follweiler in the race to succeed Rep. Paul Semmel, R-Lehigh; Democrat David Kessler beat Republican Billy Reed for the seat held by Rep. Dennis Leh, R-Berks; and Democrat John Hornaman unseated Rep. Matthew Good, R-Erie.

Democrats needed to take eight seats away from Republicans to regain control of the House after 12 years in the minority.

They had a net gain of six seats and their candidate was leading in a seventh race in unofficial returns Wednesday. Democrat Bryan Lentz had a 51 percent-to-49 percent lead over incumbent Rep. Tom Gannon, R-Delaware, with votes yet to be counted in four of the 44 precincts.

In two other competitive districts, Democratic candidates were narrowly trailing Republicans in races to replace retiring Reps. John Fichter, R-Montgomery, and Robert Flick, R-Chester.

If all the candidates who are currently leading win, Republicans will control the House, 102-101.

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