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Canvass: Rep. Lavar Christensen wins race by 3 votes, but recount looms

FILE: Rep. LaVar Christensen speaks at a press conference at the State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 11, 2014. Christensen, one of Utah's most outspoken conservatives, may keep his place in the House, despite lagging behind on electi
FILE: Rep. LaVar Christensen speaks at a press conference at the State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 11, 2014. Christensen, one of Utah's most outspoken conservatives, may keep his place in the House, despite lagging behind on election night.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Thanks to only three votes one of Utah's most outspoken conservatives may keep his place in the state House of Representatives, despite lagging behind on election night.

But the race's razor-thin margin of .01 percent allows for a recount, meaning the House District 32 race still hangs in the balance.

Rep. Lavar Christensen, R-Draper, trailed his Democratic challenger, Suzanne Harrison, by 195 votes on election night. But as more votes were tallied during the past two weeks, Christensen closed the gap, eventually flipping the race Friday to take the lead — by only six votes.

Tuesday, Salt Lake County's canvass finalized its election results with about 400 more ballots tallied, clipping Christensen's lead to just three votes.

Because the race was decided by less than 0.25 percent, Harrison can ask for a recount under state law, and Harrison said in an interview Tuesday she's "absolutely" going to call for a recount.

"I believe in the process," Harrison said. "I appreciate (Salt Lake County Clerk) Sherrie Swensen and her staff's efforts to make sure every vote is counted."

Christensen issued a statement Tuesday with a tone that reflected victory, and no uncertainty about any recount.

"It's a privilege to represent and serve the people in our district," he said. "I am grateful for all we've accomplished together and there is more ahead. I care deeply for each and every citizen, and look forward to serving once again."

Christensen penned Utah's same-sex marriage ban, which has since been overturned by federal courts.

If the recount results in Harrison's victory, she would join two Democrats who are taking new seats in the Utah Legislature.

In House District 34, Karen Kwan beat GOP candidate MaCade Jensen in their bid for retiring Taylorsville Rep. Johnny Anderson's place, by 8.9 percent of the vote, according to Tuesday's canvass.

In House District 32, Democratic candidate Elizabeth Weight beat Rep. Sophia DiCaro, R-West Valley City, by about 3 percent of the vote.

Citing Harrison's race, Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon issued a statement calling on voters to remember the importance of each individual vote, saying the party will also request a recount alongside Harrison

"Let Utahns remember that every single vote matters," Corroon said. "We place our confidence in our democratic system and in our elections officials, trusting that the final results will reflect the will of the voters in that district."