McSally Recount Win Gives GOP Biggest Majority Since 1929

(Cliff Owen / AP Photo)

Six weeks after Election Day, the lone Congressional race left uncalled has been decided: Republican Martha McSally, a former Air Force colonel, has defeated her two-time opponent, incumbent Rep. Ron Barber, by a razor-thin 167 votes in Arizona's 2nd district.

This afternoon an Arizona judge put to rest a nail-biter of a rematch. The race's initial ballot count found the congresswoman-elect ahead by 161 votes - so slim a lead it called for an automatic recount according to state's election law.

The nearly 220,000 ballots in the district that were recounted this month confirmed McSally's victory, and even saw her pick up six more votes. In their 2012 match-up, Barber, a Democrat, was able to best McSally by roughly 2,500 votes, then considered an ultra-tight race.

The mandatory recount didn't stop McSally from declaring victory after the initial results were announced, nor from getting two impressive Capitol Hill committee assignments last week.

The first female to fly in combat, McSally is on the roster for the House Armed Services Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee come January. McSally has served in the Middle East, in both wars and special military operations. Though she has no formal political experience, the retired Air Force pilot has a policy degree from Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

This was a closely watched race for many reasons, chief among them Barber's relationship with his close friend and former boss, Gabby Giffords, who asked him to run to replace her when she retired from Congress in 2012. Barber served as Giffords' district director and was shot in the same deadly 2011 Tucson shooting that gravely injured the former congresswoman.

Despite painting McSally in an unflattering light on both gun control and women's issues, and having the support of Giffords, beloved in the southern Arizona district, Barber's efforts fell short. He joins a pack of defeated Democrats in what was a historically victorious election year for Republicans.

McSally's win pushed the GOP to a new level of achievement this midterm: They now have their single largest House majority since the onset of the Great Depression.

Previously tied with the 246-seat majority achieved by Republicans in 1946, the party now has their greatest majority since 1929-31, when Republicans controlled 270 seats under President Hoover. The 270-seat watermark is second only to the 302 Republicans elected to the 67th Congress in 1920. Note that the statistics are based beginning from when the House expanded to 435 seats in 1913.