Kristin Kassner, a first-time Democratic candidate for a North Shore state legislative seat, topped the Republican incumbent by a single vote after a district-wide recount, erasing what had been a 10-vote deficit.
Lenny Mirra, the five-term incumbent from Georgetown, said Thursday he intends to challenge the results in court for the newly drawn district.
After the town of Topsfield finished counting ballots Thursday, Kassner emerged with 11,763 votes to Mirra’s 11,762 among more than 24,000 ballots cast in the race.
“With such a tight margin, it’s hard to allow yourself to be too excited until the plane is landed. Until the end of today, it’s been holding your breath,” Kassner said in a phone interview. “It’s definitely been a roller coaster.”
Deb O’Malley, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office, said the decisions of the boards of registrars in counting any protested votes in each town’s recounts are subject to review by a court, should Mirra ultimately seek a court challenge.
Mirra said Thursday he “absolutely” will file one, likely focused on a number of contested ballots.
“Some were filled out in pencil, some were filled out with different colored ink, some had stray marks. Some had a name written in the write-in and then an oval filled out,” he said.
The biggest swings came in Ipswich and Rowley, where Kassner netted five votes apiece, according to tallies provided by state officials. She also picked up another vote in Georgetown.
Kassner declined to comment on the likelihood of Mirra filing a legal challenge. “I feel the process unfolded like it should,” she said. “We’ll see what comes when it comes.”
Mirra had held a 10-vote advantage before Secretary of State William F. Galvin ordered a recount in both the Second Essex race and another in the First Middlesex district, where Democrat Margaret Scarsdale had led Republican Andrew Shepherd, of Townsend, by 17 votes for an open seat.
Scarsdale’s lead has since thinned to 11 votes, according to state election officials, with 4,104 ballots still left to be recounted in Lunenburg on Saturday.
When the Legislature reshaped its electoral map during the redistricting process last year, it overhauled Mirra’s district, slicing off all or parts of five communities and merging his hometown and Newbury with other North Shore communities, including Ipswich, Rowley, Hamilton, and a part of Topsfield.
That race and the one in the First Middlesex will have no effect on which party controls power in the House, where Democrats have long held a supermajority. But the results could detract from the Republicans’ shrinking presence on Beacon Hill.
Before the recounts, Democrats were poised to hold at least 132 seats in the 160-member House come January — three more than they began last session with — in addition to keeping the 37 they had in the Senate.
Should Kassner and Scarsdale both prevail, it would give Democrats 134 seats and Republicans 25. That would mark the lowest GOP share since 2009.
The thin margin in the Second Essex is not without precedent. In 2010, Republican Peter Durant was initially declared the winner for a state representative seat in Central Massachusetts, where he emerged by one vote — 6,587 votes to 6,586 — over Geraldo Alicea, the Democratic incumbent.
But after scrutinizing claims about absentee ballots, rejected ballots, and election irregularities, a judge ruled that one absentee ballot that was initially discarded could be counted for Alicea, putting them into an exact tie.
The judge ordered a new election, which Durant won by 55 votes.
Matt Stout can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.