In the final tally certified by Johnson County officials Thursday, Democratic challenger Rui Xu has defeated incumbent Republican Melissa Rooker by 121 votes.
Xu said he and his campaign had been in “90 percent celebration mode” since the initial results showing him leading Rooker were posted Election Day. But it wasn’t until yesterday afternoon’s certification that he was sure he had won.
With such a narrow margin, Xu said, his initial reaction to the win was a sense of thanks to everyone who had contributed time and energy to his campaign.
“The biggest feeling is gratitude,” Xu said. “With a margin this small, you think of everyone that’s helped you and all the doors they knocked and calls they made. Literally ever single interaction we had over the past nine months mattered.”
Speaking Friday morning, Xu said he wanted to thank Rooker for her service to the district and that he “appreciated everything Melissa has done. I know I have big shoes to fill.”
To that end, he said he plans to meet with as many people as possible in the two months before he is seated to get up to speed.
“I don’t think I’m going to be any less busy in the next couple months than I was in the campaign,” he said. “I’m going to be learning as much as possible so I can hit the ground running.”
When seated, Xu will become the first-ever Chinese-American to serve in the House.
Rooker says she’ll evaluate next steps for public service
Rooker was on hand at the board of canvassers meeting Thursday, saying she wanted to “ensure that every vote was counted,” but noted that she accepted the results and that there was no reason to call for a recount.
“I’m disappointed,” she said. “But I accept it. I will step aside gracefully and let the new representative step into the role.”
Rooker said she intends to continue to be involved in the public service sphere, though she couldn’t say what that involvement would look like at this point.
“I’m not going away, but I really can’t speak to next steps will look like,” she said.
Rooker, a SM East and University of Kansas graduate who started her career working with Clint Eastwood and his production company in Los Angeles, was first elected to the House in 2012 after edging Democrat Megan England by less than 200 votes.