Yee edges out Pérez in state controller’s race

A month after the primary election, Betty Yee has finished fewer than 500 votes ahead of fellow Democrat John A. Pérez for second place in the state controller’s race, raising the prospect of a costly and time-consuming statewide recount.

Lake County Registrar Diane Fridley used nearly all of her allotted 28 days to certify the results in the down-ballot contest that sparked a daily ritual of political junkies refreshing their Web browsers. The latest tally Monday had Yee at 878,191 votes and Pérez at 877,707. The secretary of state’s office listed Lake County as the last of 58 counties to report, and the deadline for counties to certify their vote is Tuesday.

In brief statement issued Monday, Yee said she was confident she had advanced in the top-two primary to face the first-place finisher, Republican Ashley Swearengin, in the Nov. 4 general election.

“I want to thank the voters of California for their trust and support. I look forward to bringing my extensive finance experience into the office of controller,” Yee said.

“I want to congratulate Assembly Speaker Emeritus Pérez for his strong and positive campaign and for his leadership in restoring fiscal stability to California. With the campaign now behind us, I call upon all Democrats to unite in the effort to hold this vital position as California’s chief financial officer.”

Experts have said the exceedingly close contest makes it likely Pérez will ask for a recount.

But with the results still left to be certified, Doug Herman, Pérez’s campaign strategist, said the campaign would wait before commenting.

“This is one of the closest elections in state history,” he said after hearing the latest batch of results Monday. “It’s not a done deal.”

Swearengin, the mayor of Fresno, got more than 1 million votes and had already secured a first-place finish to advance to the general election in November. That left Yee and Pérez to fight it out over nearly a month of vote counting.

A member of the state Board of Equalization, Yee dropped from second to third to fourth place and then back into second in the seesaw battle with the former Assembly speaker. The contest for second place ranks among the closest finishes of more than 4,100 statewide elections in the United States since 2000.

Recounts can be launched by any voter in any county within five days of the state’s official canvass being completed. While they also can specify the order of the precincts to be recounted, they must put up the money to pay for a day’s work, making for an expensive prospect.

Last week in the Inland Empire, Republican Lesli Gooch trailed by about 200 votes when she pulled the plug after just one day of recounting ballots in the 31st Congressional District. Gooch reportedly spent about $6,000 on the effort but said she was comfortable that she had done her due diligence for the voters.

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