Election 2020

AP names Nikil Saval winner over Pa. Sen. Farnese, but no concessions yet

The Associated Press is calling the race for the Democratic challenger, but mail-in ballots have yet to be released.

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Saval: Author photo; Farnese: District office
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After an unprecedented Election Day, no one has declared victory in Philadelphia’s contested matchup between Pa. Sen. Larry Farnese and Democratic challenger Nikil Saval.

Voter turnout appeared modest at the polls come sundown after yet another day civil unrest and a global pandemic. With nearly 100% of precincts reporting, more than 15,000 voters cast ballots at polling places in Pennsylvania’s 1st Senatorial District, which blankets a vast stretch of South Philly, and sweeps through Center City and parts of the River Wards.

Among those who turned up in person, Saval won 68% of the district vote over 32% for Farnese, an 11-year incumbent with wide political backing in the city’s Democratic establishment.

The Associated Press is calling the race for Saval based on those early returns, but neither campaign has issued a concession or victory statement yet.

“It’s still too early to tell but the results are looking good across every corner of the district,” Saval said. “There are still thousands of votes to count and we intend to fight for each and every one.”

Farnese did not respond to a request for comment.

More than 66,000 voters applied for mail-in ballots in the district — and election officials so far have received only two-thirds. The votes cast Tuesday represent about 15% of the total possible ballots in the race.

The first round of absentee and mail-in ballot results will be released Wednesday around noon, according to one election official, with more results released daily going forward until all the votes have been tallied.

Saval, 37, entered the race late last year with ties to the city’s progressive circles. A writer and cofounder of the group Reclaim Philadelphia, he made his foray into local politics during Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, and later became elected a ward leader in South Philly. The Vermont senator endorsed his campaign last month.

Many observers view the race as the latest new-vs.-old matchup in Philly’s robust Democratic establishment.

Farnese, a Center City attorney, has touted himself as a progressive leader in Harrisburg. Since taking office in 2009, defenders have praised his strong record on LGBTQ rights and labor issues.

Since the pandemic took root locally in March, Farnese says, he’s been helping develop plans for contact tracing and to further curb the spread of COVID-19. Saval too pivoted his campaign around the crisis, offering services to voters and developing a wide-ranging policy response.

This article will be updated with additional results from mail-in ballots on Wednesday.

Want some more? Explore other Election 2020 stories.

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