Update: On Monday, June 6, the Alabama Republican Party Candidate Committee announced that it would hear an election contest to the Senate District 27 race.
The race to secure the Republican nomination for the Alabama State Senate District 27 seat came down to a single vote after the Lee County Republican canvassing board tallied the provisional ballots on Tuesday afternoon at the Bennie Adkins Meeting Center in Opelika.
The winner? Jay Hovey, unofficially, and barring a recount that changes the outcome. The results of the race were set to be certified on Tuesday to the Alabama Republican Party, which will then certify the results to the Alabama Secretary of State's office. Incumbent District 27 State Sen. Tom Whatley, who has served in that position since 2010, will have a 48-hour window to request a recount after the vote is certified.
Hovey entered the day with a razor-thin four-vote lead over Whatley, with the margin narrowing to one after provisional ballots were counted.
In Lee County, Whatley picked up six provisional votes to Hovey's four. In Tallapoosa County, Whatley added three votes, while Hovey added two. There were no provisional ballots that affected the District 27 count in Russell County, according to Probate Judge Alford Harden. A request for comment on the race to Whatley was not returned by print deadline.
After the results of the provisional count were announced by the canvassing board, Hovey, who was in attendance, addressed his close win in the race, although he was hesitant to declare outright victory before the votes were made official.
"Well, it's obviously a little surreal," said Hovey, who currently sits on the Auburn City Council. "We've joked this whole week ... that every vote counts and, obviously, we've come down to one vote, and it's never been more true."
Hovey easily carried Lee County, picking up about 63 percent of the vote. He said the strong show of support from Lee County residents "means the world to me."
"I appreciate everyone in Lee County showing up and supporting me," he said. "It's obviously something to be very proud of. Our team is very proud of the results of our home county — both Sen. Whatley and I are from Lee County. If nothing else, I'm very proud that our home county showed out for me."
Whatley fared better in Tallapoosa and Russell counties, picking up about 70 and 81 percent the vote, respectively.
If Whatley were to ask for a recount, he would have to foot the bill if the outcome was not reversed. The state of Alabama's automatic recount, which is triggered when the vote margin is less than 0.5 percent, only applies for contests in a general election. In primaries, a candidate must request a recount, which is handled through the candidates party, said Lee County Probate Judge Bill English.
After the provisional ballots were counted, Hovey sidestepped a question on what his plans were for his Auburn City Council seat.
"We're going to enjoy this for a few days," he said with a smile.
If the results hold, Hovey will face Democratic nominee Sherri Reese for the District 27 seat in November's general election. Reese ran unopposed.