SALT LAKE CITY -- Republican challenger Morgan Philpot on Wednesday congratulated Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson for a hard-fought race in an acknowledgment that the likelihood he could still knock off the five-term incumbent was very slim.
In unofficial returns, Matheson drew nearly 51 percent of the vote while Philpot netted about 46 percent in the 2nd District race.
It was the closest electoral margin for Matheson -- the state's lone Democrat in Congress -- since 2002.
"You look at the totals for the other races on the ballot here in Utah, I think there's clearly a partisan wave," Matheson said.
"I think a five-point win is actually a fantastic accomplishment, and I'm thrilled with the win."
Philpot campaign manager Lyall Swim said Matheson's lead prompted Philpot's congratulatory call.
"Obviously, it would take a miracle to get there," he said. "It looks very much like Matheson will retain his seat, so Morgan did call to say congratulations and great race."
Swim said that while Philpot acknowledges it is unlikely he could still win, they're waiting for all absentee ballots to be counted. Philpot waited until about noon Wednesday to contact Matheson, the congressman said.
"He said it was a good race, an honor to run," Matheson said. "He was very gracious."
Matheson is a moderate in a Republican-leaning district who voted against President Barack Obama's health care program.
Philpot campaigned largely by saying a vote for Matheson was a vote for California Rep. Nancy Pelosi as House speaker.
Following Democrats' loss of the House, Matheson said it may be time for a change in his party's leadership.
"I think changing some things up makes some sense. That would be a good thing for the caucus," he said.
On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, of Utah's 3rd District, announced who he would vote for in party leadership elections. That includes House Minority Leader John Boehner, of Ohio, for house speaker and Rep. Eric Cantor, of Virginia, as majority leader.
"It is wonderful news for the American people to have the Republicans now in control of the House," Chaffetz said in a statement.
"I will continue to advocate for the following principles: fiscal discipline, limited government, accountability and a strong national defense."