Freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera has captured the lead over Republican Doug Ose in the expensive and closely watched race for suburban Sacramento’s 7th Congressional District.
Bera surged ahead of Ose by 711 votes, 87,643 to 86,932, in the most recent vote totals announced Wednesday afternoon. Ose’s lead had stood at 3,011 votes on election night, falling to 2,183 last Thursday and just 530 on Monday, when county elections officials announced that 33,000 ballots remained uncounted.
The outcome of the contest now hinges on an estimated 10,000 countywide mail ballots and more than 9,000 additional provisional ballots, officials said.
“This race is not going to be fully counted for up to another week,” said Alice Jarboe, the assistant registrar of voters for Sacramento County.
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The next update is Friday, but Jarboe said that release is not expected to include any of the provisional ballots, which could take as long as a half-hour each to research and dispense of.
Bera has been upbeat about his chances of securing a second term in Congress, noting that two years ago it took nine days to determine he had unseated then-Rep. Dan Lungren, a Republican from Gold River. Both Bera and Ose were in Washington on Wednesday, Bera for House business and Ose for meetings.
“On Election Day, I said that I was confident we’d win this election, and I’m encouraged by the numbers released today,” Bera said in a prepared statement. “We need to let the registrar continue to count the remaining ballots, and we’re excited to see what the final margin will be.”
The Ose campaign issued its own statement: “The race for California’s 7th Congressional District has been close from day one. There are thousands of ballots yet to be counted, and we want to ensure every legal vote is accounted for.”
Democrats came out of election night on the brink of losing congressional incumbents in Fresno, Ventura and San Diego, but their candidates were rewarded in overtime ballot-counting. On Wednesday, Rep. Julia Brownley of Thousand Oaks claimed victory over Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, while Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno jumped to the front of his close race with underdog Republican Johnny Tacherra.
In other close races, Democratic Reps. Scott Peters of San Diego, Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert, Jerry McNerney of Stockton, John Garamendi of Walnut Grove and Lois Capps of Santa Barbara held off challenges, and Redlands Democrat Pete Aguilar claimed a seat left open with the retirement of GOP Rep. Gary Miller.
Nationally, Republicans picked off enough Democrats to amass their largest majority in the House wince World War II. However, despite dropping a handful of legislative seats to the GOP last week, California Democrats are now poised to finish the cycle with a net gain of one House seat.