Monday, November 19, 2012 17:53 EST
WASHINGTON — Democrats claimed victory Monday in the final undecided House races of the 2012 election, as President Barack Obama’s party picked up a total of eight seats to narrow the Republican majority.
Two closely watched races in California saw Republicans Dan Lungren and Brian Bilbray concede defeat to Democratic challengers at the weekend, while Arizona’s Ron Barber, an ex-aide to Democrat Gabrielle Giffords who resigned this year after being wounded in a shooting, claimed victory to hold his seat.
A handful of other races were too close to call more than a week after the November 6 vote but they eventually went to the Democratic candidates, pushing their tally to 201 seats, party officials told AFP.
Republicans will still retain control of the House of Representatives, beginning the 113th Congress in January with 234 seats.
“It was beyond our expectations,” Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said of the elections.
“It puts a real burden on (House) Speaker John Boehner and the Republican leadership, knowing that they can’t count on 100 percent of their own caucus on anything, to work across the aisle and find common ground with Democrats on some of the country’s most important issues.”
Congress has been sunk in gridlock for much of the past two years, amid partisan bickering that has left many observers alarmed at lawmakers’ inability to reach compromise.
Democrats tightened their grip in the Senate in the November 6 election, picking up an additional two seats to expand their majority to 55-45, including two independents who caucus with Democrats.
In one particularly divisive House contest, Tea Party-backed Republican incumbent Allen West of Florida has refused to concede against Democrat Patrick Murphy, even as election officials missed a Sunday deadline to report results of a two-day recount in the race.
Unofficial results had Murphy ahead by some 1,900 votes, and local media reported that lead increasing by 242 votes after the partial recount.
The missed deadline will lead to certification of the unofficial results on Tuesday, barring an unlikely emergency exemption granted by the state.
Murphy declared victory and attended freshman House orientation on Capitol Hill last week.
A final House race in Louisiana between two Republicans will be settled in a December runoff after neither gained 50 percent of the vote. The southern state lost a House seat due to slow population growth.