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SALT LAKE CITY — Like a magician freeing himself from a box filling with water, Rep. Jim Matheson escaped with his political life once again Tuesday to earn a seventh term in Congress.
The Democratic congressman claimed victory shortly after midnight in a hard-fought victory over Republican Mia Love after trailing in the polls going into Election Day. In so doing, he becomes the first representative from Utah's new 4th Congressional District.
"Congratulations to Jim on a hard fought victory," Love said in a congratulatory statement. "It was a close race, but ultimately the voters of Utah have spoken."
After a seesaw battle all night long, Matheson bested 49.34 percent to 48.06 percent, a 2,818 vote difference, according to unofficial results. The difference came down to Salt Lake County, the only county Matheson won. Love was victorious in Utah, Juab and Sanpete counties.
"I just want to thank the voters of the 4th Congressional District for taking a look at the candidates on the ballot and making a decision based on who we are not just on political party," he said. "I'm a Democrat in a very Republican state and I'm successful because people know who I am as an individual."
Looking forward, he said, "It's time for people (in Congress) to set aside this partisan nonsense and get something done. That's the message I heard during this election.
"I think in the short term we're not going to go off the fiscal cliff, we really aren't. I think it may be some temporary fix, which really doesn't solve the problem. But I do think there's going to be an agreement before the end of the year to stop the fiscal cliff."
Commenting on the race against Republican challenger Mia Love, he said he's had closer races.
"The last time the legislature tried to gerrymander me out of office (10 years ago), they didn't succeed then, but it was a little closer than this time," he said.
In winning a seventh term, Matheson held on to his position as the state's lone Democrat in Congress. He had never trailed in the polls heading into Election Day in any of his previous races, though his 2010 challenger closed the gap and nearly caught him at the end.
Matheson said he expected the race to be tight and built a good ground game to get voters to polls.
Matheson has now fended off six challengers — three of them narrowly — since wresting the 2nd District seat from a Republican 12 years ago. He jumped to the new 4th District this year after the GOP-controlled Utah Legislature carved up his district when it redrew congressional boundaries last fall.
The 52-year-old congressman has proven to be an astute campaigner who appeals to independents and moderate Republicans. In one of his TV ads, a local mayor said he was voting for Mitt Romney and Matheson. He portrays himself as an independent voice who puts Utah over party.
Contributing: Sam Penrod
|US House District 4 Results|
|Jim Matheson (DEM)||49%|
|Jim Vein (LIB)||2%|
|Mia Love (REP)||48%|
|488 of 488 precincts reporting at 9:40 p.m.|
|For a complete listing of election results, click HERE.|