After a margin of only 15 votes left the race between District 10 Senate candidates Greg Vital and Todd Gardenhire too close to call, Vital said Friday he will request a recount in the election.
Vital distributed a statement to the press, citing yet-to-be-opened provisional ballots in both Hamilton and Bradley counties and questions regarding the margin of error in both election day and early voting ballot totals as his reason for requesting the recount.
The candidate made no mention of an extra 25 votes that were awarded to Gardenhire by Hamilton County Election Commission officials Friday because of a discrepancy that led to none of Gardenhire's votes being counted at the Eastdale precinct Thursday evening.
In his release, the candidate said he trailed by 16 votes, despite the state's counting the margin as 15.
"Election day results had us behind by only 16 votes out of almost 16,000 cast, or 1/10 of 1 percent," Vital said. "This percentage is well under the threshold of what most states consider to be an automatic recount."
Vital campaign spokesman Rob Alderman later told Nooga.com that Vital was aware of the 25 votes tallied for Gardenhire Friday and said that the "human error" was further reason for the entirety of votes in the race to be recounted. The added votes extend Gardenhire's total lead to 40 votes.
"That's just further proof that there could be more errors out there and even more reason for a recount," Alderman said.
On Friday, Hamilton County Election Commission Chairman Mike Walden said he was confident the election had been "fair and accurate." Referencing the fact that only two provisional ballots remained for the 10th Senate District in Hamilton County, along with six remaining in Bradley County, Walden said it appeared the race would eventually be called for Gardenhire.
"To me, the only question is whether he wins by 40 votes or 38 votes, but regardless, it appears that he's the winner," Walden said.
Gardenhire was not as quick to assume victory.
The 64-year-old financial consultant and longtime Republican activist said he took no issue with Vital's request for a recount and would not declare victory until all votes were counted. Gardenhire did say the news of additional votes in his favor Friday morning had led him to feel "a lot better" about the eventual outcome of the race.
"[Requesting a recount] is Greg's right, and that's what he ought to do," Gardenhire said. "That's the procedure that he ought to do, and I respect that. Any question needs to be made one way or another, and I'll let nature take its course and give him every opportunity to challenge the results … This thing was absolutely a nail-biter."
Gardenhire was not the only candidate to gain additional votes to his tally because of the discrepancy at the Eastdale precinct.
Democrat candidate Quenston Coleman received 32 additional votes; 3rd District candidate Dr. Mary Headrick received an additional 139 votes; 3rd District candidate Ron Bhalla received three additional votes; and District 28 candidate Tommie Brown received 69 additional votes.
The election will not be certified until Aug. 16.
The winner of the GOP race will face Chattanooga City Councilman Andraé McGary, who handily won the Democratic primary against Coleman and Hamilton County School Board member David Testerman. McGary scored 61.8 percent of votes in the primary.
The general election is Nov. 6.