Democrats in the US state of Pennsylvania have declared victory in a special election that's still officially too close to call. The poll is seen as a bellwether for mid-terms election later this year.
Democrats are inching closer to staging an upset in the Pennsylvania special election between Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb. The high-stakes US Congressional race took place in a county that President Donald Trump won by a margin of 20 points in 2016.
Although a winner in the race has not been officially determined, some US media outlets are calling Lamb the "apparent winner."
According to results published on Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Secretary of State, Conor Lamb holds a slim 627-vote lead over Republican Rick Saccone with all votes counted, including absentee ballots.
Election results could be certified on March 26 at the earliest, according to a state official. County officials are expected to begin counting provisional paper ballots late this week, and military ballots next week, officials said
Saccone has refused to concede but Lamb, a former federal prosecutor and Marine veteran, had already declared himself the winner on Tuesday night.
"It took a little longer than we thought but we did it. You did it," Lamb told a crowd of supporters shortly before midnight local time.
The 33-year-old said the voters told him to "do your job" in Washington.
"Mission accepted," he said.
The special race carries high stakes for both US parties. The Pennsylvania district had been considered a Republican stronghold, and a Democratic victory there would not bode well for the Republican Party ahead of Senate and House midterm elections in November.
"We're still fighting the fight. It's not over yet. We're going to fight all the way to the end. You know I never give up," the 60-year-old Saccone said before Lamb claimed victory.
With the outcome coming down to a fraction of a percentage point, either candidate can request a recount.
"The results in Pennsylvania spell disaster for Republicans in November; if they can't win in a longtime Republican stronghold, no district is safe," Bradley Beychok, who heads the pro-Democrat political action committee American Bridge, said on Wednesday.
Read more: US Green Party to pursue Pennsylvania recount in federal court
The White House has strongly backed Saccone, who once described himself as Trump's wingman. The president himself had traveled to the Pennsylvania county for a campaign rally to boost Saccone last week.
The contested district is located in the south-western suburbs of Pittsburgh, a traditionally blue-collar area. Both candidates publicly supported Trump's incoming tariffs on steel and aluminum, as the Pittsburgh area is considered the home of US steelmakers.
The special election was triggered when Republican congressman Tim Murphy resigned in October.
dj,jcg /sms (AP, dpa, Reuters)