Update: After a Razor-Thin Finish in the Third District, a Recount Looms

Mere dozens of votes separate Lori Trahan and former Marty Walsh aide Dan Koh in the Congressional primary.

Dan Koh photo by Webb Chappell for “Koh, What a Life” | Lori Trahan photo by Tim Carter via flickr.com/Creative Commons

Update: Looks like the recount is a go. The campaign for former Marty Walsh Chief of Staff Dan Koh says it will file the signatures necessary to trigger a closer look at the Third District today. “We want the process to progress as swiftly as possible so that the ultimate nominee will have adequate time and resources to win in November,” the campaign said in a statement Friday. 

How fitting, in an electrifying 2018 primary season, that it should come down to this in Massachusetts’ Third District: a nail-biter of a finish, and the very real possibility of a recount.

As the final votes were tallied in the district, Dan Koh, former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Lori Trahan, former chief of staff to Rep. Marty Meehan, were in a virtual dead heat, a mere 52 votes favoring Trahan in the official count. The two emerged at the top in a race that saw 10 candidates lining up to compete, five of whom notched double-digit percentage point shares of the vote.

Trahan claimed victory early, declaring herself “your Democratic nominee for Congress,” in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. But Koh has yet to concede the race, and now the clock is ticking.

A recount is possible when the difference between first and second-place finishers is less than half a percentage point. In order to pull one off, Koh will now have until the end of the day on Friday to submit 500 signatures and trigger the recount process.

As we wait to see what happens next, Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s office has ordered the ballots be preserved and kept locked up.

“We’re communicating with all local election officials and letting them know ballots need to be under seal in containers and in a locked vault with no access to them until a recount can take place, if one does take place,” Galvin spokeswoman Deb O’Malley tells the State House News Service.

The eventual victor, whoever it is, will face Pepperell Republican Rick Green, a co-founder of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, and independent candidate Mike Mullen come November

Call me idealistic, but however this ends up turning out, this is not in a perfect world how you would want to see the fate of a seat in Congress decided. Consider that if Trahan holds on to her nomination or Koh succeeds in changing the outcome of the race with a recount, the result will come down to the whims of roughly a fifth of the voters who decided to cast a ballot with Democrats this year—roughly 18,000 people out a population of 735,000. Some have seen this outcome as a clear example of the need for ranked choice voting in pursuit of something that more closely resembles a majority. I guess if you learn another lesson from this situation, it would be that you gotta get out there and vote people.

Either way, an exciting year that saw a city councilor make history, two Beacon Hill power players ousted, dispiriting support for a noted homophobe, and the dawn of a new era for the Suffolk DA, this is the primary that just won’t quit.