Nine House, Senate races still undecided

— -- In 2006, Ohio Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy endured a months-long recount before ultimately losing her bid for Congress by one of the slimmest margins in the nation, less than 1,100 votes.

This year, Kilroy made another run for the House and is in the exact same spot — down by 146 votes and bracing for an election that will continue well past Election Day.

"Now, we are in a holding pattern," said Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Kilroy's Republican opponent, state Sen. Steve Stivers.

Democrats swept into the White House on Tuesday and expanded their majorities in Congress, but for candidates in nine House and Senate races where ballots are still being counted, the election is far from over.

"The simple fact of the matter is that they haven't finished counting ballots," Kilroy spokesman Brad Bauman said. "The most important thing is that all the votes get counted."

After the counting was done in Oregon, Democrat Jeff Merkley narrowly edged GOP Sen. Gordon Smith on Thursday, increasing the Senate's Democratic voting majority to 57-40, including two independents. There was little movement on the other undecided contests.

In Ohio, the 15th District includes parts of Columbus, but also Republican-leaning suburbs, Ohio State University professor emeritus Herb Asher said. That will keep the seat competitive, he said.

Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens held a narrow lead over Democratic challenger Mark Begich. Alaska elections officials said 60,000 ballots are outstanding. The state's only U.S. House member, Republican Rep. Don Young, is ahead by almost 17,000 votes in a race that is also too close to call.

Polls showed Stevens down by as many as 8 percentage points after he was convicted of failing to report gifts he received. Pollster Del Ali speculated that Alaskans reacted to the attention Stevens received. "They don't like national media and national pundits telling them how they should vote," he said.

In Minnesota, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman led Democratic challenger Al Franken by a few hundred votes out of 2.9 million. State law calls for a recount when the margin is less than 0.5%.

The margin in Minnesota may have been trimmed by third-party candidate Dean Barkley, who received 15% of the vote. Another factor driving the race may have been that both candidates were viewed unfavorably, Ali said. "I think voters became disgusted with both of them," Ali said.

As Senate Democrats counted their new majority, they also tried to figure out what to do with Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent who endorsed Republican John McCain for president.

Lieberman, who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee eight years ago, met Thursday with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to talk about whether he will continue to be considered part of the Democratic majority. Lieberman later held a news conference but answered no questions.

"I want to spend the next few days thinking about … what my options are," he said. "We must now unite to get our economy going again and to keep the American people safe."