DENVER — Colorado's Senate candidates are preparing for a possible recount in a neck-and-neck contest, with neither contender declaring victory by early Wednesday.
Thousands of provisional and write-in ballots remained to be tallied, and some projections showed the race could end up within half of 1 percentage point, which would trigger an automatic recount under Colorado law. Both Democrats and Republicans said last week they'd be ready for a possible recount.
Coloradans aren't the only ones eyeing the results. The race has attracted more out-of-state campaign money than any other Senate contest this year — almost $33 million, according to the Washington-based watchdog group Sunlight Foundation.
A Bennet win would help Democrats avoid further erosion of their Senate lead.
Bennet, 45, is seeking his first full term after being appointed to the seat last year. Before becoming senator, he was the Denver public schools superintendent. Bennet replaced Sen. Ken Salazar, President Barack Obama's interior secretary.
Buck was among the first Republicans to announce he'd try to unseat Bennet. The 51-year-old prosecutor from Weld County in northern Colorado courted tea party groups with a promise to cut spending and push for a federal balanced budget amendment. He defeated a better-known and better-funded Republican in the GOP primary, former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton.
Both candidates avoided making speeches as poll results rolled in. Instead, they issued statements predicting an ultimate win.
"This race is very close, but we believe that when every single vote is counted Michael will come out on top," said Bennet spokesman Trevor Kincaid.
Buck's campaign manager, Walt Klein, also predicted victory, based mostly on late-arriving votes from rural Colorado, where Republicans are strongest.
"We think when all the ballots are counted, we're going to have a new United States senator," Klein said. "We're not ready to make an announcement, and we won't until we are certain that every ballot that should be counted is counted."
Final results could take days. County elections officers have until Nov. 16 to count provisional ballots, and the secretary of state's office has until Nov. 26 to verify the full vote and order a recount.