The question of who will represent the 49th Legislative District remained unresolved late Wednesday afternoon, with the answer likely coming from uncounted Washington County provisional, absentee and military ballots.

The tight race between incumbent Republican Bud Cook and Democratic challenger Steve Toprani grew even tighter Wednesday, as Washington County officials continued to tabulate votes from the county’s portion of the district, which includes much of the Mon Valley and part of Fayette County. Just 26 votes separated the two candidates, with Cook receiving 9,925 votes overall, and Toprani getting 9,899.

Toprani, a former Washington County district attorney, narrowly won the Washington County portion of the district, with 8,398 votes to Cook’s 7,821. The margin was similarly narrow in the Fayette County portion of the 49th, with Cook receiving 2,104 votes to Toprani’s 1,501.

The contest could ultimately be decided through 78 provisional ballots that have not yet been counted, 19 absentee ballots that are missing and seven military ballots, all from Washington County. Some of the provisional ballots could end up being tossed because the voter is not registered, or they voted in the wrong district or the wrong county, according to Melanie Ostrander, the county’s assistant director of elections.

The military ballots will be counted if they were postmarked by Nov. 5 and arrive by next Tuesday, Ostrander said.

Fayette County has completed counting all of its ballots for the 49th.

Joseph R. Dalfonso, an attorney representing the Toprani campaign, did not elaborate on any course of action it would take if Toprani still came up short when all the votes are in and added up.

“We’re just worried about getting the vote counted,” he said.

Cook, 62, is a West Pike Run Township resident who “flipped” a seat formerly held by Democrat Pete Daley in 2016.

Toprani, 39, as a Republican, was Washington County district attorney for one term, ousting longtime DA John Pettit, but he switched to the Democratic Party for this election.

Staff Writer

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. He serves as editorial page editor, and has covered the arts and entertainment and worked as a municipal beat reporter.

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