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Giffords reelected in narrow race

Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has been reelected by a narrow margin, new election returns show.

Giffords has a near 4,000-vote lead over challenger Jesse Kelly, according to numbers released late Friday by the Pima County Elections Division and the Arizona Secretary of State.

"The people of the 8th Congressional District have decided to send me back to Congress," Giffords told about 50 cheering supporters at her midtown campaign office Friday evening.

Her campaign "focused on real solutions to the real problems facing the people of Southern Arizona," Giffords said, speaking about two hours after the latest tally was released.

"I served in the minority before and I know what that's all about," Giffords said.

“I’m not elated to be in the minority,” she said, “but my job isn’t to be in the majority. My job is to do the work."

"This is about doing what's right," Giffords said.

Giffords repeated her campaign themes of border security, strengthening Social Security and public education, and growing jobs in new technologies.

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"Our victory was not an accident," Giffords said in a news release put out just before the press conference. "We won because Democrats, Republicans and Independents pulled together in our campaign to focus on the real solutions to the obstacles that we face."

Giffords congratulated Kelly "for his passion and his interest in politics" when she spoke. In her release, she told his supporters, "I respect your opinions, admire your passions and share your lover of our great state and country," and told the crowd that she'll "be thinking about them" when she returns to Congress.

"Our country must be strong enough to solve problems and that means we must learn how to work together again," her statement said.

Kelly's campaign did not return phone calls, but released a statement thanking Jesus, his wife Aubrey and his family "for their unwavering support" and "the thousands of warriors who fought with me in this campaign."

"While we fell short here in District 8, Tuesday was a resounding victory for America," Kelly said in his concession.

"The citizens of this nation overwhelming chose limited government, fiscal sanity, and free market solutions. I am proud that we ran an honest and straightforward campaign. We are blessed by God to live in a nation where we get the government we deserve and the government that we chose. The voters of Southern Arizona have spoken and I respect their decision," he said.

Both Southern Arizona Democratic incumbents were locked in tight battles with right-wing Republican challengers. Election returns on Thursday gave Rep. Raul Grijalva a sold 6,000-vote lead over novice challenger Ruth McClung, while Giffords' race was tighter, with a 3,000 vote margin.

As thousands of late-counted ballots were tallied after Election Day, Giffords' lead has increased from about 2,000 to her current total. Thursday night, she led by 3,000.

Grijalva won his previous four House races with more than 60 percent of the vote. Giffords won her previous two congressional elections by more than 10 points each time.

Giffords' campaign staff expressed confidence late Tuesday that the lead would hold, as her lead in early ballots was about 10,000 votes, and a significant number of early ballots were turned in at polling places on Tuesday.

About 25,000 early ballots were dropped off at the polls Tuesday. Another 12,500 provisional ballots, and other problematic ballots, slowed Pima County's vote count.

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Pima County will resume counting the roughly 16,000 remaining ballots on Monday. About 13,000 of those are provisional ballots, which may be included in the final tally, pending examination of voter registration and identification.

Election returns

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Dylan Smith/

Giffords celebrates her victory Friday night.