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It’s official: Walsh wins 8th District cliffhanger by 291 votes

Nick Allen representing MelissBean campaign Adam B. Simfrom Ancel Glink representing Joe Walsh campaign check see thmachine is 'zeroed' while

Nick Allen, representing the Melissa Bean campaign, and Adam B. Simon from Ancel Glink representing the Joe Walsh campaign, check to see that a machine is 'zeroed' while Lisa Kroeger of the Lake County Clerk's office holds the tape.. | Richard Bajjalieh /

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Updated: November 17, 2010 8:42AM

Two weeks after Election Day, the photo finish in the 8th District Congressional race was all but wrapped up Tuesday afternoon in a cluttered, windowless storage room deep beneath the Lake County clerk’s office.

When clerk Willard Helander read the final returns from Zion precincts around 3:50 p.m., the totals from a day of counting provisional ballots showed incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean with 473 votes to add to her tally, and Republican Joe Walsh with 459.

“You can all go home now,” elections official Cindy Pagano said to a collection of attorneys, ballot-watchers and reporters as the votes were entered into the clerk’s computer system. “That was everything — everything we had left. After we upload, we’re final.”

Bean had won the day’s battle, but the war went to Walsh — she had started the day needing to overcome a deficit of 347 votes. With final ballots from all precincts reported in Cook, Lake and McHenry counties around 5 p.m. Tuesday, Walsh had 98,115 votes to 97,824 for Bean, a difference of 291.

Both candidates were in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, with Bean returning to duties with the 111th Congress and Walsh attending orientation for the 112th.

The Bean camp released a statement late Tuesday saying that Bean called Walsh Tuesday night upon her return to Illinois. During the call, “Bean congratulated Joe Walsh on becoming the next representative of Illinois’ 8th Congressional District.”

The statement added that Bean “will provide more formal remarks” at today’s press conference in Schaumburg.

Walsh, who claimed victory the day after the election, is expected to do so again today. Walsh, who defeated five other GOP candidates in the primary to face Bean, also is in Washington going through a congressional orientation program.

Walsh campaign manager Nick Provenzano, exiting the clerk’s office late Tuesday, said “the congressman-elect will hold a press conference (Wednesday) in Washington, D.C.” to comment on the results.

In Lake County, Walsh started the day with 54,689 votes, or 49.8 percent, to 51,552 for Bean, or 46.9 percent. More than 84,000 ballots were cast Election Day, and nearly 18,000 early votes were also counted. Officials spent the following two weeks fielding provisional ballots and late ballots arriving by mail.

“It’s been every single second of the last two weeks — from answering questions to people calling to people coming in,” Helander said of the effort to bring the 8th District race to a conclusion. On Tuesday, a team of six to 15 election officials began counting the provisional ballots around 8:30 a.m.

As Helander was handed the final packet of results from Zion more than seven hours after the process began, Pagano looked up from a computer and said “now we’re at 457 to 457.”

“It’s a clear mandate,” Helander said.

The Bean-Walsh race featured such remarkable totals as two dead heats among election-day results in two different precincts — Grant 137 (202 votes for each candidate), and Warren 315 (146 votes for each). The photo finish was also reflected in Fremont 108 in and around Mundelein, which posted the highest Nov. 2 vote total of any precinct in Lake County with 1,150 — and Walsh finishing ahead of Bean by six votes, 568-562.

In the three-county district, Walsh’s advantage was strongest in McHenry County, where updated totals Tuesday showed him taking 19,102 votes, or 52.4 percent, to 15,762 votes for Bean, or 43.2 percent.

Bean closed the gap in Cook County, taking 30,025 votes, or 54.2 percent, to Walsh’s 23,848 votes, or 43.1 percent. In Cook, Bean ran strongest in Schaumburg Township, taking 57.4 percent of 29,000 votes cast.

Green Party candidate Bill Scheurer of Lindenhurst, meanwhile, collected a total of 6,494 votes overall.

Bean’s districtwide total in 2010 compares to what she collected from Lake County alone in 2008, when she took 97,200 votes in defeating Republican Steve Greenberg of Long Grove.

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