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Ala. gubernatorial race undecided pending recount

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP)–Alabama’s incumbent Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman asked for a statewide recount Nov. 7 to determine who won the Nov. 5 election after he and Republican challenger and Southern Baptist Bob Riley both declared victory.

The confusion over who won stems from two sets of numbers reported by one heavily Republican district.

“Either way, it comes down to just 3,000 votes out of approximately 1,360,000 votes cast,” Siegelman said at a news conference. “That’s just two-tenths of 1 percent of the total vote cast in this election. Such a small margin would have already triggered a recount in 12 states.” Seeking a recount is the only fair way to determine the winner, he said.

Siegelman, 56, had already begun discussing upcoming programs for the state, and Riley, 58, a three-term congressman, had already received a congratulatory phone call from President Bush.

“The president of the United States called in, and he said, ‘Bob, with 3,000 votes, that’s a landslide compared to some races,'” Riley told CNN.

Riley’s campaign had no immediate comment on Siegelman’s call for a recount.

Figures originally reported by Baldwin County, near Mobile on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, showed Siegelman received about 19,000 votes. That made him the state’s winner by two-tenths of 1 percent.

But hours after the polls closed, Baldwin officials said the first number was wrong, and that Siegelman had received just fewer than 13,000 votes. Those figures made Riley the winner by about 3,000 votes. The change, according to a county election official, stemmed from a computer software programming glitch.

Even after any recount, there might be further delays in determining a winner, pending voter complaints that can be filed for action by the new state legislature when it convenes in January.

The state’s major newspapers argued in favor of a recount in recent editorials. The Birmingham News noted that even with a recount a win by Siegelman seemed unlikely.

Siegelman, a Catholic, was a statewide office holder for most of the past 25 years and won the governor’s office four years ago by knocking off incumbent Gov. Fob James, a Republican. He had recently been dogged by charges of cronyism, a gloomy economy and a stagnant schools crisis, and was seen as the most endangered Democratic governor seeking re-election this year.

Riley is a staunch conservative who nonetheless won over a traditional Democratic constituency in his district with a folksy appeal.

He and his family are members of the First Baptist Church of Ashland, where he teaches the men’s Sunday School class and served as chairman of the church board of trustees.

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