SALT LAKE CITY — It's Congressman-elect Ben McAdams after election results were certified Tuesday.
The Democratic Salt Lake County mayor's lead over Republican Rep. Mia Love was at 694 votes following the final vote canvass throughout the 4th Congressional District, just 21 votes beyond the margin that would have allowed Love to ask for a recount.
McAdams ended up with 134,964 votes to Love's 134,270, winning the Nov. 6 election with 50.13 percent of the vote to 49.87 percent for the two-term congresswoman.
While that's close, McAdams insisted it was a decisive victory.
"It is clear that this race is over," he told the Deseret News during an interview at his Millcreek campaign headquarters. "For me, what's important is the voters have expressed their decision."
But Love, who is traveling with her family over the Thanksgiving holiday, has not conceded.
She said in a statement she would be holding a news conference at Utah GOP headquarters Monday "to discuss the race." She said she would be calling McAdams shortly "with the results in and the election now over."
McAdams was confident enough about the slightly larger, 739-vote lead he held after Monday's results to declare victory then, saying he saw no way Love could catch up to him in the final county totals.
Love responded Monday by thanking voters. She expressed a similar sentiment Tuesday, calling engaging in the election process "one of many reasons this is the greatest country on earth."
Few votes were gained by either candidate in the final numbers approved Tuesday. Besides portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties, the 4th District includes Juab and Sanpete counties.
The election results become official Monday, when state officials approve the vote canvass.
State Elections Director Justin Lee said nothing should change between now and then, and that the results in the 4th District are outside of the 0.25 percent margin that permits a losing candidate to request a recount.
Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, congratulated McAdams in a tweet saying, "He has worked hard to represent the citizens of Salt Lake County and I believe he will put the same dedication into representing his district in D.C."
Herbert also tweeted that he hoped "Utahns, particularly those in the 4th district, will be able to move beyond this unnecessarily divisive campaign and that all our candidates will hold themselves to a higher level of civility in the future."
McAdams said while campaigns are about differences, he's ready to move forward.
"Governing is about what we have in common. That's what I'm looking at now," he said. "We've seen robust discussion over the last several months about what may divide us. Now its time to talk about what brings us together."
He joked that Utahns should be happy to no longer have to change the channel or mute the sound on their televisions to avoid the negative TV commercials that flooded the airwaves from both campaigns, as well as out-of-state special interest groups.
More than $10 million was spent on the race. McAdams now joins a Democratic majority that will take control of the U.S. House in January, something he said will be a benefit to Utah.
The last Democrat to represent Utah in Congress was former Rep. Jim Matheson, who defeated Love in her first bid for the 4th District seat in 2012. After he retired, Love went on to win in 2014 and again in 2016.
McAdams said as late as Monday morning he was talking to his four children, ages 7 to 13, about the likelihood of losing the race and serving out the remaining two years of his second term as county mayor.
He said he and his wife promised the family a long-awaited family vacation if Love won, so they felt "a little bit of disappointment" when he determined Monday he'd won.
"Was it unusual (for McAdams) to make a statement without a concession? Yes. But the whole process has been unusual and prolonged," said Chris Karpowitz, co-director of BYU's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.
Karpowitz said until provisional ballots were counted in Utah and Salt Lake counties Monday, both candidates still had reason to hope they'd win what was the most competitive race in the state.
That those votes "broke dramatically for Ben McAdams indicates they were likely new voters who were much more Democratic in their approach," likely because of Proposition 2, a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana, he said.
Proposition 2, which passed but will be replaced in next month's special legislative session, was credited with driving voter turnout throughout the state, energizing young voters, especially those new to the process.
The largely by-mail election may have caused some problems for Love, who was counting on support in Utah County to counter McAdams' strength in Salt Lake County.
Instead, Utah County voters who decided that rather than mail in their ballots they would cast them in person on Election Day ran into long lines because there were fewer polling places than in a regular election.
"That fact that people had to wait hours in lines means we'll never know how many people walked away" before voting, Karpowitz said. He said the way Utah County ran the election "seemed to be very problematic and hurt Love."
The governor, a former Utah County commissioner, was even more blunt recently in his assessment, calling the county the "epicenter of dysfunction" after some voters faced four-hour waits at the polls on election night.
Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves, however, took a dig the governor during the vote certification Tuesday.
"Our staff should be commended for the great job," Graves said. "Shame on Gov. Herbert for calling out Utah County when (staff) did an exceptionally good job of counting every vote."
Last week, Love and her campaign sued the Salt Lake County clerk over the vote count, focusing on the voter signature verification process used when ballots were unsigned or signatures didn't match.
The case was dismissed the day after it was heard in 3rd District Court. Karpowitz said the lawsuit "was a sign the Love campaign was very worried how this was going to turn out," especially since it targeted only Salt Lake County.53 comments on this story
Jason Perry, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said the big question for Love now is whether she'll run again in the 4th District.
Perry said in 2020, another matchup between Love and McAdams could turn out differently if there are not high-profile propositions on the ballot bringing voters to the polls.
"I think we have not seen the last of Rep. Love," Perry said. "And this district has proven in this election that it is not safe for anyone."
Contributing: Katie McKellar