Todd Gardenhire's lead expands; Greg Vital requests recount

photo From left, Todd Gardenhire, Greg Vital

Hamilton CountyTodd Gardenhire: 6,204Greg Vital: 5,394District 10(includes parts of Bradley County)Todd Gardenhire: 8,020Greg Vital: 7,980Source: Hamilton County and state Election Commission unofficial vote totals

The Hamilton County Election Commission found 25 more votes for Todd Gardenhire in Tennessee's Senate District 10 race Friday, and now his competitor, Greg Vital, wants a total recount.

The votes, products of an electronic uploading error from voting machines, brought Gardenhire's lead to 40 votes in the district.

Election Commission Chairman Mike Walden said the uploading error from a machine in the Eastdale precinct didn't count the votes for five candidates there, including Gardenhire.

"We're in the process of re-uploading the cards again," Walden said. "The [overall] results didn't change."

The new votes increased Gardenhire's total to 8,020 over Vital's 7,980 in a district that includes parts of Hamilton and Bradley counties.

Vital released a statement Friday calling for a recount.

The election commission plans to certify the election Aug. 16, and Vital then will have five days to request the recount, election commission attorney Chris Clem said.

Early Friday, the Vital campaign hinged its hopes on provisional ballots, but election officials told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that there were only five - two in Hamilton County and three in Bradley County.

If the ballots qualify, they will be counted by Monday afternoon, Hamilton County Elections Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan said. It's the same story in Bradley County, elections Deputy Registrar Phaedra Walker said.

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But the Vital campaign questioned the integrity of the entire election, saying Gardenhire's tiny advantage warrants a recount.

"The public wants to be certain that all the votes are in and that there has been no error in ballot totals, and I'm sure my opponent wants to be sure, as well," Vital said in a statement. "This is an exciting race that isn't over."

Gardenhire likened the situation to a Tennessee-Alabama game in the mid-1960s when he sat in the end zone with a friend. The friend rooted for UT; Gardenhire supported Alabama.

"The last play of the game, Alabama kicked a football. It took forever for that ball to go through the uprights," he said. "That's kind of where we are right now, waiting on the ball to fly through the air.

"I want to be a good sport about this and move on and move ahead," he said later Friday afternoon.