Unsuccessful 11th Congressional District GOP nominee David Harmer is not ready to concede to Democrat Rep. Jerry McNerney even though he admits his chances of overturning the results would be a miracle comparable to the parting of the Red Sea.
Before Harmer makes the call to congratulate McNerney, the Republican says his campaign is examining the final precinct-level voting results made available late Tuesday after Contra Costa County certified its results.
McNerney beat Harmer by 2,658 votes, or a margin of 1.1 percentage points, according to the final results of the four counties that contain portions of the 11th District.
If the Republican campaign finds sufficient anomalies, it could spur Harmer to request a recount.
Any voter may request a recount but he or she must pay for the costly process, although the counties must refund the money if the recount overturns the results.
The Republicans have repeatedly expressed concern about Contra Costa and Alameda counties' refusal to allow their observers to challenge the validity of signatures on vote-by-mail ballots as they were counted, and the California Republican Party has said it will pursue a court ruling on the matter regardless of the 11th District outcome.
Harmer could also petition the House of Representatives, whose members may legally seat anyone they prefer regardless of election results.
But the House rarely takes such an action. It has seated an individual other than the certified winner in only five instances since 1923, according to a study by Northwestern University.
The last time was in 1984, when the Democrat-controlled House seated Indiana Democrat Frank McCloskey after Republican Richard McIntyre was certified the winner. A subsequent recount showed that McCloskey had actually won but the act infuriated Republicans for years.
Harmer readily admits that a recount and House intervention is highly unlikely, but also called it imprudent to concede before everyone is satisfied with the accuracy of the results.
"We haven't been itching to contest the results, no one enjoys that," Harmer said. "What we have wanted to do is to understand what happened, and to the extent there are any questions about the accuracy or legitimacy of the process, we want to address those in a responsible way so that questions don't linger into the future. It is for the benefit of all the participants."
In the meantime, Harmer is moving on with his life, literally.
The lease on his San Ramon house expired Nov. 30, and he and his wife, Elayne, have spent the past week packing, moving and settling into the new family home about a mile away. They wanted to avoid moving their four children out of their schools.
Then, the attorney says he needs to lose the 20 pounds he gained on the campaign trial, polish up his résumé and find a job. He has been campaigning full-time for the past 1 ½ years and the family treasury is bare, he says.
"I think (a reporter) asked me at some point earlier in the campaign what I would do if I lost, and I said that the Harmer family would be grateful for the chance to serve but if we lost, the Harmer family would be grateful to return to normal life," Harmer said. "That's still true."
He has no plans to run for public office again, although one "never says never."
Harmer has run for Congress three times: Utah, 1996; the 10th District in California in 2009; and the neighboring 11th District this year.
An independent commission will redraw the boundaries of every political district in California after the release of the decennial census results, which could produce more favorable GOP districts although it is highly speculative at this point.
"My feeling is that if we couldn't do it this year, when could we do it?" Harmer said. "We were running during a predicted Republican wave and we couldn't have had a better campaign operation. It's hard to imagine doing better."
The toughest part about losing, Harmer says, has been dealing with not only his own disappointment but that of his family and supporters. They invested a great deal of time, emotion and money into his candidacy.
"It's hard not to feel as though you have let people down," Harmer said. "But disappointment is different from regret. You never regret playing the game just because you lost."