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Bartz and Wilhelm photo

Merlin Bartz and Mary Jo Wilhelm

Mary Jo Wilhelm, a Democrat state senator from Cresco, narrowly defeated State Sen. Merlin Bartz of Grafton on Tuesday, according to results from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

But Bartz said the outcome was “undetermined” and would require further scrutiny Wednesday.

The race pitted the two experienced legislators against each other in the newly formed Senate District 26.

Complete but unofficial results from the seven-county district showed Wilhelm with 15,511 votes to 15,391 for Bartz, a 120-vote margin out of 30,920 votes cast. There were 18 write-in votes.

But Bartz said Tuesday night his figures showed him losing by only eight votes. He said there will be more absentee votes to be counted when ones mailed in time to be counted arrive.

“And there’s the DCI investigation in Floyd County over absentee votes. “So the math is pretty fuzzy tonight. We’ll take a look at it again tomorrow,” he said.

Wilhelm was not available for comment late Tuesday night.

Bartz, 51, a farmer and conservative Republican from Grafton, served in the Iowa House in 1991 and 1992, then served in the Iowa Senate from 1993-2002. He worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2002 to 2007 and has been back in the Iowa Senate since 2009.

Wilhelm, 57, is a professional appraiser who served 12 years as a Howard County supervisor and has been in the Iowa Senate for the past four years.

During the campaign, Bartz defined himself as a fiscal conservative and watchdog of wasteful spending.

Wilhelm claimed Bartz’s reluctance to spend caused him to vote against worthy programs such as funding for job centers.

Senate District 26 includes Worth, Mitchell, Howard, Floyd and Chickasaw counties and parts of Winneshiek and Cerro Gordo counties.

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