Republican Claudia Tenney of New York was sworn in Thursday as a member of Congress, reclaiming a seat she lost two years ago and then regained — barely — after one of the nation’s most protracted vote counts.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, delivered the oath of office Thursday morning to Tenney in the House chamber in a brief, socially distanced ceremony.
“Congratulations, you are now a member of the 117th Congress,” said Pelosi, a Democrat.
Tenney reclaimed her job representing New York’s 22nd Congressional District — which runs down the middle of the state from Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania border, between Syracuse and Albany — from Anthony Brindisi, the Democrat who narrowly ousted her from office two years ago.
The rematch was even closer than their last fight.
Tenney, 59, built a substantial Election Day lead based on votes cast at polling stations, but her advantage shrank to nearly nothing as a record number of mail-in ballots, mostly cast by Democrats, were counted.
Her lead was down to a few dozen votes by mid-December. Both sides turned to the courts to decide whether to count certain ballots, including some with potentially disqualifying technical errors, or which were cast at the wrong locations or by voters whose registration status was in doubt.
Tabulation and recordkeeping problems complicated the count.
One rural county revealed that it had found 55 uncounted ballots weeks after Election Day. Another was found to have failed to process large numbers of voter registrations, even though it had ample time to do so. Important notes related to challenged ballots were lost because they had been written on sticky notes that lost their adhesiveness and fell off.
In the end, a judge ruled that Tenney won by 109 votes out of nearly 319,000 votes cast, or a margin of just 0.034%.
Brindisi has been in court seeking a potential recount, but he conceded Monday and said he would drop his appeals.
Brindisi had been seen as one of the more potentially vulnerable Democrats in Congress. He represented a district that supported President Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election and appeared to have done so again in 2020.
The victory gives Tenney revenge for her 2018 loss, but she returns to a Washington in which Republicans have lost the White House, the House and the Senate.
Tenney ran with an endorsement from Trump and had promised to work with him, if he was reelected, to restore an economy devastated by the pandemic.
She ran on her past support of increased pay for military troops and her vote in favor of the Republican-led 2017 tax overhaul, and she was endorsed by several law enforcement unions and the National Rifle Association.
Brindisi, in a nod to his conservative-leaning district, had carved out centrist positions, but twice joined with fellow Democrats in voting to impeach Trump.
Now, like Tenney before him, he is out after a single term.