UPDATE: Koster officially wins attorney general race by 780 votes

Thursday, August 21, 2008 | 9:44 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Chris Koster's margin narrowed but only slightly, as official election results from the Democratic attorney general primary show he won by 780 votes.

Runner-up Margaret Donnelly, who lost by just 0.2 percentage points, already has said she plans to ask for a re-count. She has seven days to formally request that all 346,465 ballots cast in the Aug. 5 Democratic attorney general primary be re-counted.

The secretary of state's office on Thursday certified the results from the election. In the official results, Donnelly picked up six votes on Koster.

In another closely contested primary race, Republican governor candidate Sarah Steelman picked up 37 votes on Kenny Hulshof, but she still lost by more than 17,000 of the more than 755,000 votes cast in that race. Hulshof advances to face Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon in the November general election.

Candidates are entitled to a re-count when they lose by less than 1 percentage point. Besides the attorney general campaign, candidates in two Democratic state Senate races and a Republican primary for a Springfield judgeship are also eligible for re-counts.

The most recent statewide re-count was the 2006 Republican primary for state auditor, narrowly won by Sandra Thomas. She lost the general election to Democrat Susan Montee.

Re-count requests are directed to the secretary of state, but local election authorities pay for and re-tally the number of ballots cast for the candidates. The secretary of state has 20 days after a re-count is requested to certify the election totals for a second time.

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat, said Thursday that every ballot cast would be re-counted. When possible and if voter intent is obvious, the ballots will be run through optical scan readers. If there is any question of a voter's choice, the ballot will be set aside and examined by a bipartisan team.

Carnahan said she has no idea whether re-counts would change anything, but said they are important if only to ensure public confidence in the final outcome.

Neither Donnelly nor a lawyer representing her for re-count immediately returned calls seeking comment Thursday. Donnelly announced last week that she planned to ask for a re-count, saying it would ensure "the people's voice through the election is most accurately heard."

Koster issued a statement on Thursday expressing confidence in the election results.

"As we've said before, it is within Representative Donnelly's rights to verify the election's results," Koster said. "If she chooses to do so, we look forward to having the results verified quickly."

Koster, a state senator from Raymore, emerged from a bitter three-way Democratic primary. Donnelly and the third-place finisher, Rep. Jeff Harris of Columbia, spent much of the campaign questioning the ethics of Koster's fundraising and whether his switch from the Republican Party a year ago should raise doubts about his Democratic Party bona fides.

Republican Sen. Michael Gibbons, of Kirkwood, was uncontested in the GOP attorney general primary.

The other major party candidates for statewide office whose primary night victories were made official Thursday are Republican Lt. Gov Peter Kinder and Democratic challenger Sam Page; Carnahan and Republican Mitchell Hubbard; and in the state treasurer's race, Republican Brad Lager and Democrat Clint Zweifel.


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