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Terry McMillan and Joanne Ferrary

LAS CRUCES — After three days of a painstaking vote-by-vote state-ordered recount, Doña Ana County election officials on Thursday declared Republican Terry McMillan the winner of a tightly contested state House race.

McMillan, 56, a Las Cruces surgeon and the incumbent, won by an eight-vote margin out of more than 12,500 cast, beating out challenger Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces, according to official numbers.

Before the recount the two had been tied at 6,247 votes.

McMillan said the past month since the election has been a "purgatory" of sorts, as the candidates were in limbo about the outcome. But he's pleased with final result.

"We worked hard at this campaign, as we did with the last one," he said. "Now that all the votes have been counted, we're very gratified."

McMillan, who was treating patients Thursday, wasn't at the Doña Ana County Government Center, the site of the recount.

The total tally changed gradually over the past few days, as each candidate either picked up or lost votes.

Ferrary, an anti-DWI advocate, logged 6,259 ballots in her favor; McMillan had 6,267.

"Of course you're disappointed, but you have to try," said Ferrary, asked about the loss. "If you don't, you don't get the opportunity to at least try to win.

The recount entailed taking all the ballots that were cast on election day, Nov. 6, and re-feeding them through ballot-counting machines. Plus, a number of other kinds of ballots had to be re-tallied by hand.


Step by step throughout the process, observers representing McMillan and Ferrary were reviewing ballots, said Robert Hernandez, head of the county's absentee board in charge of the recount. He said that out of 67,000 total votes cast across the county, "you're going to have a margin of human error" in the original reporting.

"What this board did was to find it," he said.

The board looked at five main categories of votes, absentee; early voting; election day; in-lieu-of, in which a voter hand-delivers an absentee ballot on election day; and provisionals.

The aim was to be as fair as possible in the recount, Hernandez said.

"Our thing was to come in —and no matter what party we were in, we were going to leave that at the door — and run the fairest recount we could," he said. "We're completely satisfied. We believe this will be the most accurate recount they can get."

There was a single provisional ballot that a voter pursued through an appeals process, to make sure it got counted. Ironically, turned out to be an under-vote for the McMillan-Ferrary race, meaning the person opted not to vote for that contest.

Ferrary said the recount process was fair.

"The county clerk's office worked hard, as well as the canvassing board, to get things right," she said.

Hernandez applauded the work of 11 clerks, who assisted with the recount.

Ferrary's campaign manager, Don Kurtz of Rio Associates, a consultant, represented her in the ballot-review. McMillan, too, had representatives, including someone from Washington, D.C., and county GOP county Chairman Russell Allen. State Sen. Rod Adair, a Roswell Republican, attended the recount on Thursday.

Ferrary, 59, said she's undecided about whether she'll run for the seat in two years. But she enjoyed the campaign and hearing from constituents of the district. She plans to continue advocacy in the areas of anti-DWI, Medicare and Medicaid and "women's issues," she said.

McMillan, meanwhile, said his next step is finding a place to stay in Santa Fe for the 60-day legislative session, which starts in January. Also, he said he plans to propose legislation in the areas of tax and tort reform.

Had the recount wound up a tie, McMillan and Ferrary would have had to resort to a type of lottery to break the tie, according to state law.

Diana Alba Soular can be reached at (575) 541-5443; follow her on Twitter @AlbaSoular

Recount results

State House District 37

— Terry McMillan* (R) - 6,267

— Joanne Ferrary (D) - 6,259

— *incumbent