The Associated Press declared Democratic Rep. John Delaney the winner in Maryland's 6th Congressional District on Thursday night after election officials announced absentee ballot counts in four of the district's five counties.
The first-term congressman led Dan Bongino by 2,269 votes out of more than 184,000 cast after Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Montgomery counties reported their canvass results. Washington County's results will be announced Friday, said Kaye Robucci, the county's elections director.
Thursday's vote tally boosted Delaney's lead from Tuesday's election by 103 votes and put victory beyond the reach of Bongino, a former Secret Service agent making his second run for public office. He was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for a Maryland U.S. Senate seat in 2012.
Delaney, a former financier from Montgomery County, also defeated Green Party candidate George Gluck.
The first-term congressman campaigned as a bipartisan moderate, citing his Partnership to Build America bill to rebuild America's roads and bridges through a public-private partnership.
In a telephone interview Thursday night, Delaney said the close call has inspired him to work harder at letting his constituents know where he stands and what he's doing.
"I want to redouble my efforts on making sure people on both sides of the aisle in the district understand the good bipartisan work that we're doing because I think that's what they want to see Congress do,'' Delaney said.
Delaney has criticized the once-a-decade redistricting process that helped him win the seat in 2012 that was held for 20 years by Republican Roscoe Bartlett. Delaney said the highly politicized process should be reformed so congressional districts truly represent local communities. The 6th District is largely rural, but many rural conservative voters felt their voices were muted by Democrat-led redistricting that added a chunk of liberal-leaning Montgomery County.
Delaney claimed victory Wednesday but Bongino hadn't conceded. Bongino didn't immediately return calls seeking comment Thursday night.
In an interview earlier Thursday, Bongino said he didn't want to needlessly prolong the contest.
"If the writing was on the wall, we certainly would concede,'' he said.
Bongino also raised the possibility that a pending civil lawsuit alleging voter fraud could come into play at some point. Activists who filed the lawsuit last month in U.S. District Court in Baltimore contended they found evidence of non-U.S. citizens registered to vote in Frederick County, and asserted the same situation exists statewide. The state Board of Elections has acknowledged a possibility that some noncitizens have voted, since state and local election boards have no system for verifying the citizenship of voter registration applicants.
Delaney lives in Montgomery County, where he won 61 percent of Tuesday's vote.
Bongino ran strongest in western Maryland, which is more conservative but less populous than the Washington suburbs in Montgomery and Frederick.