TOMS RIVER — A Democratic challenger has claimed victory against President Trump's strongest congressional supporter from the Garden State.

In a victory speech 24 hours after polls closed Election Day, Andy Kim said he had enough votes to declare a win.

But U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur refused to concede, saying as many as 7,000 votes remain to be counted.

Just 2,622 votes separated Kim from MacArthur on Wednesday after ballots were counted from Democratic-leaning Burlington County. A day earlier, vote totals from Ocean County, a GOP stronghold, had MacArthur with 2,000 votes in the lead in the 3rd District.

If Kim does win, Democrats will control 11 of the 12 congressional seats in the state — a landslide "blue wave" victory that will help cement the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives.

"I will be part of that new generation of leaders that will step up and focus on what's best for the American people, what we can do for all of us. That is what we need right now," Kim said during a news conference while supporters chanted his name.

"Im so proud of this community and what we have put together. Words right not can't express to you what is going on through my mind right now," Kim said, getting a bit emotional. "What I promise you is this is going to be more than just words. We are going to make sure to get the action [...] to move our country on a better path."

MacArthur responded with a written statement.

"This has been a hard fought campaign and like Andy Kim, I'm ready to see it come to an end. I have always said that I will be guided by the voters of the district and there are nearly 7,000 more of them who haven’t been heard from yet. We must ensure that their votes - and all votes - are counted in a transparent way that protects the integrity of this election."

MacArthur did not address his supporters in the 3rd Congressional District on Tuesday night. Ocean County GOP chairman George Gilmore told CBS Philly that mail-in ballots still had to be counted Tuesday night, when MacArthur still held a slight lead of about 2,000 votes.

Burlington County gave Kim 101,903 votes to MacArthur's 60,090, according to unofficial results Wednesday afternoon.

Ocean County gave MacArthur 76,868 and Kim 46,677.

A third-party candidate, Lawrence Berlinski got enough votes to have made a difference: 3,815.

Provisional ballots still have to be counted, which will determine whether MacArthur keeps his seat or a Democrat flips a fourth district, leaving New Jersey with just a single Republican congressman.

Kim tried to keep his supporters positive when he addressed them on election night.

"We've got a little bit longer to go. And I want you to believe in this," he said to cheers.

A Monmouth University poll released last Thursday showed the district, which spans the Philadelphia suburbs to the Jersey Shore, was divided. Kim had a 59-36 percent lead in the western areas of the district but MacArthur led along the shore, 60-34 percent.

MacArthur, an insurance executive who's been in Congress since 2015, was the only congressman from New Jersey to vote for President Trump’s tax reform. MacArthur also was the author of an amendment to a Republican healthcare reform bill that would have weakened protections for preexisting conditions.

Kim served as the National Security Council’s director for Iraq under President Obama and served as an advisor Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. John Allen in Afghanistan.

More election newsL

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Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ.

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