Democrats inched toward keeping control of the Senate on Friday as Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) appeared to win his tight re-election race.

New voting tallies released in Maricopa County — which includes Phoenix, Arizona’s biggest city — were enough to put Kelly over the top, the Associated Press projected.

The latest tallies gave Kelly 51.8% of the vote, while GOP challenger Blake Masters, who had 46.1%. The margin was enough for the Associated Press to declare Kelly the victor.

To hold on to their Senate majority, Democrats now need to win either Nevada, which is still counting votes, or Georgia, where a runoff election is to be held in December.

Republicans, who were convinced uncounted ballots after Election Day in Arizona strongly favored them, pressured election officials in Maricopa County to speed up the count. County Board of Supervisors Chair Bill Gates, a Republican, has said the team was working as it could, but it takes time to follow the detailed steps required under Arizona law.

Sen. Mark Kelly and Sen. Catherine Cortez Mastro

County officials in the Grand Canyon State have said they were inundated with far more early ballots dropped off on Election Day than they’ve ever before had to process.

Counting those ballots is time-consuming because officials have to verify that each one came from a legitimate voter, a process that couldn’t begin until Wednesday.

The Tucson area’s Pima County also had a sizable chunk of votes left to count. Together, the state’s two urban counties account for 90% of the remaining ballots, according to data from the secretary of state.

With control of the U.S. Senate on the line, neighboring Nevada’s protracted ballot count churned through a fourth day Friday as election officials tallied thousands of votes ahead of a Saturday deadline to accept finally arriving mail-ins.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) was running slightly behind Republican Adam Laxalt, but with the remaining tens of thousands of uncounted ballots mainly coming from the state’s urban cores, her campaign expressed optimism she could overtake her challenger. Laxalt predicted he’ll continue to stay in the lead as the count drags on.

“We are doing everything in our power to move ballots forward just as quickly as we can,” Joe Gloria, the registrar in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, said at a press conference on Friday. He said there were 50,000 ballots still to be counted.

With the Senate evenly divided, Nevada is one of three undetermined races that will determine which party controls the chamber. If either party wins the state plus the race in Arizona, it will have a majority even before a Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. If the Arizona and Nevada seats split between parties, control of the Senate will be decided in Georgia.

Meanwhile, several conservative Republican senators pushed Friday to delay the vote planned for next week on whether Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) should be elected as GOP leader for another two years.

“We need to have serious discussions within our conference as to why and what we can do to improve our chances in 2024,” read the letter, signed by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)

Donald Trump Jr., a key surrogate for his father, retweeted a similar call from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

McConnell had been considered a safe bet to win reelection, but the letter suggests there could be knives out for him after the underwhelming election performance.

With News Wire Services

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