Close finish in California controller’s race creates outside chance of all-Republican runoff

06/04/2014 5:49 PM

06/11/2014 8:47 AM

The November lineup in the race to be California’s next controller remained unknown Wednesday as four candidates finished within 3 percentage points of each other, while fall contests for secretary of state, attorney general and other statewide contests fell into place with little drama.

With all precincts reporting, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, led in the controller’s contest with 24.4 percent of the vote. A trio of candidates bunched up for the second spot: Assemblyman John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, with 21.7 percent of the vote; Republican businessman David Evans with 21.6 percent; and Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a Democrat, with 21.5 percent.

Wednesday, the candidates or their representatives said their participation in the November runoff could be secured after officials process hundreds of thousands of uncounted provisional and mail ballots. Election officials are still tallying the exact number.

Parke Skelton, Yee’s consultant, said he estimates that there are more than a half a million uncounted mail ballots, with about one-quarter of them in Los Angeles County, where Pérez ran strongly. Northern California, where Yee did better, traditionally has higher vote-by-mail rates. “I think she has a real legitimate shot,” Skelton said of Yee’s getting the second slot, noting that she led Pérez among mail ballots that had been received before Tuesday.

Douglas Herman, an adviser to Pérez, said the campaign is confident that Pérez’s steady gains Tuesday evening will continue and he will advance to the runoff. Pérez ran more than $1.5 million in television ads during the campaign’s final days, the only candidate for the post to take to the TV airwaves.

“Based on the trends from last night’s elections returns, John was continuing to grow and perform better as the night wore on,” he said.

Tim Clark from the Swearengin campaign said she will be in the runoff. The biggest question, Clark said, is whether Swearengin, a top GOP recruit, will face a Democrat – either Pérez or Yee – or Evans, a fellow Republican who did much better than anyone expected Tuesday.

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