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Issa narrowly wins reelection as final ballots counted in California district

Republican U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa beat Democratic challenger Doug Applegate by about 2,000 votes as officials finish counting the last 1,000 ballots three weeks after election day.

By Stephen Feller
Issa narrowly wins reelection as final ballots counted in California district
U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa narrowly won his bid for a ninth term in Congress as officials have just finished counting ballots in his race against challenger Doug Applegate, three weeks after election day. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

SAN DIEGO, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Three weeks after election day, it appears Republican U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa has just barely survived his ninth election to Congress, beating Democratic challenger Doug Applegate by a few thousand votes.

Election officials in California's 49th Congressional District say Issa has a 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent lead over Applegate -- they are separated by 2,348 votes -- and there are not enough ballots left to be counted for Applegate to bridge the gap, sending Issa to Washington for another two years.

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Applegate, a retired Marine colonel, gave Issa a run for his money, performing so well in the primaries that Issa mounted his most traditional campaign in years while Applegate drew support from the national Democratic party and an endorsement from President Barack Obama.

"Getting to serve the people of Southern California has been one of the greatest honors of my life and I am humbled at the chance to continue fighting for them in Congress," Issa said in a statement. "I thank the voters for putting their faith and support behind me and look forward at all we'll be able to accomplish together in the next two years."

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Issa, one of the most powerful members of Congress, was first elected in 2000. Issa led the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for several years, investigating the Internal Revenue Service over accusations it had been targeting conservative groups and held significantly antagonistic hearings on the attack on a United States compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

Between polling and changes to the district's make-up -- there are now almost as many Democratic voters there as Republicans -- some thought it possible that Democrats could flip the Congressional seat with Applegate. For the first time in years, Issa got a tour bus, conducted town hall events and even tried to benefit from Obama's popularity by using his picture on a mailer.

Just before endorsing Applegate, Obama called Issa out for using his picture, while the Democratic Campaign Committee and other groups threw their support and money behind the candidate.

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The district, which is split between parts of Orange and San Diego counties, has been working since election day to count mail-in, damaged and other irregular ballots. Orange County officials finished on Monday and San Diego County officials say they have less than 1,000 ballots left to count -- meaning there are not enough for Applegate to overtake Issa's lead even if he gets all of them.

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"We ran a great race and we are really proud of the effort we put together," said Applegate's campaign manager, Robert Dempsey.

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