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Vote counting drags on in Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate primary

HARRISBURG (AP) – Heart surgeon-turned-TV celebrity Dr Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick was essentially tied in Pennsylvania’s hotly contested Republican nomination for an open United States (US) Senate seat, expected to be among the nation’s most competitive races in the fall.

Both men emerged at their election night watch parties after midnight to say they would have to wait for vote-counting to resume to determine a winner, with each saying he was confident of victory.

Some counties had yet to tabulate mail-in ballots in the presidential battleground state.

Counting of provisional, overseas and military absentee ballots could last all week.

The state’s lieutenant governor John Fetterman won the Democratic nomination hours after undergoing surgery to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator to help him recover from a stroke he suffered on Friday.

Mehmet Oz speaks to supporters at a primary night election gathering in Newtown. PHOTO: AP

Democrats view the race to replace retiring two-term Republican Senator Pat Toomey as perhaps their best opportunity to pick up a seat in the closely divided Senate.

The contest between Oz and McCormick was within a couple of thousand votes overnight, out of more than 1.2 million cast. Trailing in a distant third place in the seven-person GOP primary field was conservative activist Kathy Barnette.

There is no run-off law in Pennsylvania. But the race was close enough to trigger Pennsylvania’s automatic recount law, with the separation between Oz and McCormick inside the 0.5 per cent margin that triggers an order by the state’s top election official.

Republican turnout exceeded 37 per cent, the highest midterm primary turnout in at least two decades, juiced by more than USD70 million in spending on the GOP primary alone.