Democrats get a boost as Harder takes lead

San Francisco Chronicle - - BAYAREA - By John Wil­der­muth

Demo­crat Josh Harder pulled ahead of GOP Rep. Jeff Den­ham on Fri­day evening in the closely watched con­test for a Cen­tral Val­ley seat.

The 1,300-vote lead that Den­ham, R-Tur­lock (Stanis­laus County), had held dis­ap­peared when the re­sults of late-ar­riv­ing bal­lots were re­leased. Harder, a for­mer ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist mak­ing his first run for of­fice, now has about a 3,200-vote ad­van­tage, with an un­known num­ber of votes still to be tal­lied.

The Cen­tral Val­ley con­test is one of four Cal­i­for­nia con­gres­sional races that will help de­ter­mine the strength of Democrats’ con­trol of the House for the next two years, but were too close to call Fri­day, three days af­ter elec­tion day.

With piles of late-ar­riv­ing mail and pro­vi­sional bal­lots left to count, the cam­paigns were be­ing cagey about mak­ing any pre­dic­tions.

“No state­ment yet,” said Luis Viz­caino, a top con­sul­tant for Demo­crat Katie Porter, who was run­ning about 4,000 votes be­hind Repub­li­can Rep. Mimi Wal­ters of Irvine (Or­ange County). “Lots of votes still to be counted.”

That’s a tale that can be told across Cal­i­for­nia. On Fri­day morn­ing, the sec­re­tary of state’s of­fice re­ported that there were more than 4.8 mil­lion votes left to count in the state.

In Or­ange County alone, Reg­is­trar Neal Kelly said as many as 450,000 bal­lots were left to tally af­ter elec­tion day, leav­ing some of the state’s hottest con­gres­sional races in a vote-count­ing limbo.

“We could be count­ing past Thanks­giv­ing,” he said.

That makes for ner­vous times in some of the state’s most closely con­tested con­gres­sional con­tests. Democrats tar­geted seven GOP seats statewide be­cause Hil­lary Clin­ton won those dis­tricts in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, but so far the re­sults are clear in only three. Two have gone to Democrats and one to the Repub­li­can in­cum­bent.

Three of the four seats that are still up in the air are in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

In the 39th Dis­trict, Repub­li­can Young Kim of Fuller­ton (Or­ange County), a for­mer assem­bly­woman, has seen her lead shrink since elec­tion day as more of those late votes have been counted. The five-point mar­gin she held over Demo­crat Gil Cis­neros is now just over two points, 51.1 to 48.9 per­cent, a lead of about 3,400 votes. The seat is now filled by re­tir­ing GOP Rep. Ed Royce.

Democrats hold a grow­ing lead in the 48th Dis­trict, where busi­ness­man Har­ley Rouda is chal­leng­ing 30-year GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa (Or­ange County). Rouda

is ahead by about 4,700 votes, 51 to 49 per­cent, a lead has nearly dou­bled since elec­tion day.

Wal­ters holds a 51 to 49 per­cent edge over Porter, a UC Irvine law pro­fes­sor, but that dif­fer­ence has shrunk as well since elec­tion day.

There are an es­ti­mated 70,000 votes or more to count in those Or­ange County dis­tricts.

Cal­i­for­nia’s tight­est con­gres­sional race re­mains the one in the Cen­tral Val­ley.

“This race is still too close to call. That means we still have a fight ahead of us and we still need your help,” Harder said in a post-elec­tion fundrais­ing email to sup­port­ers. “We’ll need to keep our staff on for a lit­tle longer, hire a lawyer and make sure we have ev­ery­thing we need to win this fair and square.”

The prospect of a long count in tight races has tem­pers fray­ing.

In an email Fri­day, the

Cis­neros cam­paign charged that the Demo­cratic can­di­date’s home in Yorba Linda (Or­ange County) home was van­dal­ized and that some­one shot out the win­dow of a cam­paign of­fice on elec­tion night.

The huge num­ber of un­counted bal­lots also leaves a cou­ple of statewide races in play.

In the con­test for state in­sur­ance com­mis­sioner, Demo­crat Ri­cardo Lara leads in­de­pen­dent Steve Poizner by about 120,000 votes.

In the non­par­ti­san con­test for state su­per­in­ten­dent of pub­lic in­struc­tion, ed­u­ca­tional busi­ness­man Mar­shall Tuck holds a 69,000-vote lead over As­sem­bly­man Tony Thur­mond, DRich­mond.

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