Rep. Dave Reichert and challenger Darcy Burner remained in a virtual tie Wednesday in the 8th Congressional District. Reichert led by just 1,853 votes.

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert and challenger Darcy Burner remained in a virtual tie Wednesday in the 8th Congressional District.

The two-term Republican incumbent outpaced Burner overnight Tuesday and held a slim lead Wednesday.

Initial absentee votes counted by King County Tuesday evening favored Burner, but the poll vote counted later that night trended toward Reichert. Absentee ballots counted Wednesday broke back again toward Burner.

That seesaw battle guaranteed at least another day of waiting to see who would claim the swing district, which includes parts of eastern Pierce and King counties.

Both candidates said they were not surprised by the close contest. It unfolded similarly the first time they faced each other in 2006.

In that race, Burner, a Democrat and former Microsoft manager, came within 3 percentage points of beating Reichert, a two-term incumbent and former King County sheriff.

It’s difficult to predict a close race without knowing where in the diverse district the remaining votes might come from, said Matt Barreto, a University of Washington political-science professor who studies voting patterns.

Reichert’s campaign was encouraged to see that he was doing better in King County’s later absentee ballots and maintaining a strong lead in Pierce County, which makes up about 20 percent of the 8th District. Burner’s campaign spokesman said he was glad to see Reichert’s lead shrink Wednesday as King County’s absentee tally was reported.

In 2006, Reichert ran strong in Pierce County but edged out Burner by only about 300 votes in King County.

“We’re encouraged by the trend,” said Mike Shields, Reichert’s campaign manager. Later mail-in ballots historically trend for Republicans, he said.

Burner’s campaign spokesman, Sandeep Kaushik, said Democrats were enthusiastic to vote in the national election, so they filled out their ballots early. It’s not surprising, then, that later poll counts would trend toward Reichert, he said.

“We expected going in that the race would be close, but we’re optimistic when all is said and done that we’re going to prevail,” he said.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com