By KYLE WHITNEY
For The Daily News
MARQUETTE - Despite what seemed to be a public concession, Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress Gary McDowell is insisting he is still in the race for Michigan's 1st Congressional District.
Dr. Dan Benishek smiles as he checks the television updates with his supporters at his campaign party at the Republican headquarters in Iron Mountain.
According to the Associated Press, incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, collected 2,297 more votes than McDowell, but the challenger is eagerly awaiting the full tally from absentee and overseas ballots.
"I am so proud of the grassroots campaign we built to fight for hard-working middle class families in Northern Michigan," McDowell said in a written statement sent late Wednesday morning. "We owe it to them and our overseas military to let the process continue and make sure that all absentee and provisional ballots are counted."
Approximately three hours earlier, however, McDowell seemed to concede defeat in a telephone call with the Escanaba Daily Press.
"It was a great race. Congratulations to Dan Benishek. Hope he does well," McDowell told the Daily Press shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday. "I'm proud of the race we ran."
McDowell's campaign, according to his later statement, is now "looking to resolve discrepancies between AP-reported numbers and tallying errors in some counties."
Benishek campaign spokesman Raffi Williams said this morning that he had compared the AP numbers, by county, with the numbers reported by the Michigan Secretary of State. He found no discrepancies.
"I've not heard of any of this," he said. "I saw the press release, too, and I do not know what he's referring to."
Williams said he was also not aware of any concession call from McDowell to Benishek.
After local canvassing boards complete the task of verifying tallies in the coming days, Williams said, little will change.
"We're going to see that Dr. Dan Benishek is still our congressman," he said.
Claiming victory in the race, Benishek issued a statement Wednesday thanking voters, as well as his friends, family and staff.
"Michigan's 1st District voted for jobs, the American Dream and limited government, but just because the election is over does not mean our job is done," Benishek said. "The hardest part is yet to come."
In the race for Michigan's 1st Congressional District - which represents the entire Upper Peninsula and a portion of northwestern lower Michigan - Benishek netted 166,902 votes, according to the Michigan Secretary of State's unofficial tally from Wednesday afternoon. McDowell had 164,580 votes, while Libertarian candidate Emily Salvette had 10,920 and Green Party candidate Ellis Boal had 4,158.
The tight race includes two major party candidates that faced off for the same seat in 2010. Benishek won that battle by 11 percentage points.
Benishek said that, upon his return to Congress, his goals will remain the same.
"For the next two years my focus will remain on bringing jobs back to Northern Michigan, reigning in the spending and fighting to keep the American Dream alive for our children and grandchildren," he said.
The McDowell campaign did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.