Workers prepare to scan mail-in and absentee ballots following the Pennsylvania primary elections in Philadelphia, Pennsyl...

Oz, McCormick race heads into recount in Pennsylvania Senate primary

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s top election official said Wednesday that the margin between the top two candidates in last week’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate is tight enough to trigger a statewide recount, dragging the outcome into June.

The state’s acting secretary of state, Leigh Chapman, said in a statement that the vote totals for the top two finishers — celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick — fall within the margin in state law for a mandatory recount.

Oz, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, led McCormick by 902 votes, or 0.07 percentage points, out of 1,343,643 ballots reported by the state as of Wednesday.

Under Pennsylvania’s recount law, the separation between the candidates must be inside the law’s 0.5 percent margin. The Associated Press will not declare a winner in the race until the recount is complete. That could take until June 8.

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Chapman’s recount order is mandatory — unless the losing candidate requests that it not be carried out. McCormick’s campaign has said it has no plans to decline a recount.

Counties will begin the recount next week and have until June 7 to finish and another day to report results to the state.

The winner will face Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in November’s midterm elections in what Democrats see as their best opportunity to pick up a seat in the closely divided Senate. The incumbent, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, is retiring after serving two terms.

The deadline for counties to report their unofficial results to the state elections office was 5 p.m. Tuesday. Even so, counties continued counting hundreds of ballots on Wednesday, including provisional, military and overseas absentee ballots.

Meanwhile, McCormick is in court to try to close the gap with Oz.

His campaign has asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to compel counties to promptly count mail-in ballots that lack a required handwritten date on the return envelope. A lower court has ordered a hearing next Tuesday on the matter.

Oz, the Republican National Committee and the state Republican Party oppose McCormick’s request.

There are hundreds — if not thousands — of such ballots sitting in county offices across the state.

A separate case that affects the ballot counting could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.