The race for former Rep. Gabby Giffords' House seat is headed to an automatic recount.

Story highlights

The race for former Rep. Gabby Giffords' seat is down to the wire

Incumbent Rep. Ron Barber, D-Arizona, trails his GOP opponent Martha McSally by 161 votes

A recount will be complete by Tuesday, December 16

Washington CNN —  

Republicans hoping to secure yet another House victory in their already substantial majority won in the 2014 midterm election are on edge as GOP candidate Martha McSally’s lead over incumbent Rep. Ron Barber has dwindled down to a mere 161 votes, a margin small enough to trigger an automatic recount.

This will be the state’s first-ever congressional recount.

Emerging from election night, McSally led Barber by a mere 36 votes. But technical difficulties later triggered a recount for early votes in Cochise County – a predominantly Republican area – that gave McSally a slightly greater lead.

Weeks later, Barber tried to cut McSally’s lead by challenging a decision by election officials to reject 133 votes from two predominantly liberal counties. But on Thursday, a Tucson federal judge denied the request.

Team Barber files suit in uncalled House race

The recount procedure in the Arizona is expected to take about two weeks with a final certification – and presumably a final winner – determined by Tuesday, December 16.

Barber was elected to Congress in 2012 after his boss, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, was shot in the head and severely wounded outside an Arizona supermarket. McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, challenged Barber – who also suffered two gunshot wounds in the parking lot attack – for the seat. Barber won his first election with less than 1 percent of the vote in Arizona’s second congressional district.

The recount procedure in the Arizona is expected to take about two weeks with a final certification – and presumably a final winner – determined by Tuesday, December 16.

The new House balance of power currently stands at 244 Republicans, 188 Democrats and three districts undecided: Gifford’s seat and Louisiana’s fifth and sixth congressional district.

Republicans have a net gain of at least 10 seats and could have a net gain of up to 13 seats, depending on the outcome of this race, as well as two races in Louisiana.