Andy Pugno came from behind Friday to win a spot on the November ballot, but he must decide whether to keep a promise to support his Assembly opponent, fellow Republican Beth Gaines.
Pugno overtook Democrat Regy Bronner by about 800 votes, largely on the strength of Placer County provisional, write-in and other ballots received on Election Day and counted the past two weeks, ending with a final tally Friday.
The 6th Assembly District extends into Sacramento and El Dorado counties, which finished their vote count days ago.
Pugno, a Folsom attorney, won the right to fight Assemblywoman Gaines, of Rocklin, in what could be a rerun of the costly, fiery, no-holds-barred race that rocked the newly drawn Assembly district in recent months.
Gaines, a Rocklin resident, easily finished first in the primary for a seat to represent the largely Republican district, based in Placer County but stretching into Folsom, Fair Oaks, Orangevale and El Dorado Hills.
The prospect of two Republicans running against each other was created by the state's new "top two" primary system, which pits the two highest vote-getters against each other in the November general election, regardless of party.
Pugno, who could not be reached for comment Friday, conceivably could pull the plug on his campaign even before it begins. He vowed months ago to step aside if Gaines beat him in the primary.
In a campaign flier, Pugno wrote:
"We shouldn't have Republicans fighting each other. Therefore, I pledge to support whichever candidate is the top-finishing Republican in the June primary election, and call on my opponent incumbent legislator Beth Gaines to join me in that pledge."
Gaines did not agree to such a deal, and Pugno's flier slammed her for it.
"Gaines apparently would rather see a Democrat in the Assembly than a Republican unless it is her," the flier said. "This is the kind of attitude that comes with being an incumbent."
Asked about the pledge after balloting June 5, Pugno said there was no need to discuss it until the primary was decided. His campaign manager, Jim Dutra, said the candidate was unavailable Friday and would be commenting on the race soon.
David Gilliard, Gaines' political strategist, said he expects Pugno to honor his pledge.
"We expect Pugno to keep his word, suspend his campaign, and support the top Republican vote-getter, Beth Gaines," he said.
Democrat Bronner, a retired business executive, led Pugno by 531 votes on the morning after Election Day. The margin held up, but gradually narrowed, until Friday's final tally. He could not be reached for comment.