The final vote update from Los Angeles County on Sunday gave Democrat Steve Fox a slight lead over the presumed Republican victor in the 36th Assembly District, putting the seat in the Democrats' column by a margin of just 145 votes.
Fox trailed Republican Ron Smith by about 2,000 votes the day after the Nov. 6 election, according to local reports, but the gap narrowed in recent weeks as remaining absentee and provisional ballots were counted. The final count by Los Angeles County, one of three counties in the district, put Fox ahead with just over 50 percent of the vote.
A win in the 36th Assembly District gives Democrats control of 55 seats in the lower house one above the supermajority Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez secured with another Election Day upset.
Fox is unlikely to be a sure vote for Democrats in the 2013-14 Legislature, however. The attorney and teacher ran as a Republican in a 2008 Assembly contest and has signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge against raising taxes.
Smith said Sunday that he plans to seek a recount. He said a stronger-than-usual Democratic tilt for provisional ballots in his district and other races has left him with the belief that "there is a political group that has learned how to manipulate the election by playing with provisionals."
Those are ballots cast in cases in which a voter who has requested an absentee ballot has moved within a district without updating his or her registration, or when a voter not on the polling place roster shows up in person to cast a ballot.
"No one, including myself or any consultant, could have conceived that I was over three percentage points ahead after the election and now the provisionals came in that it would overturn the (results)," he said. "Mathematically, statistically, that just doesn't happen."
Given his lead, Smith had been preparing to be sworn into the state Legislature along with the other 79 members of the Assembly today.
"I had most of my staff getting ready to be hired, my picture was up on the wall, I had my office that was assigned to me, and I already had two pieces of legislation that were going to be introduced Monday," he said.