Republican candidate Craig Huey gained a surprise second-place finish in the race to fill a vacant seat in Congress and will face Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, a Democrat, in a July 12 runoff election – if his 206-vote lead over California Secretary of State Debra Bowen holds up.
Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan on Wednesday morning announced the semi-official results that showed Hahn with 13,137 votes, 24.7 percent; Huey with 11,648 votes, 21.9 percent and Bowen with 11,442 votes, 21.5 percent. Logan said in a statement that 15.5 percent of registered voters cast ballots Tuesday in the special primary election to fill the vacant seat in the 36th Congressional District. Since no candidate received a majority of the vote, the top two will face each other in the runoff.
There were 53,659 ballots processed election night and Logan's office estimated that 9,811 ballots remained to be processed, including vote-by-mail ballots, provisional and withheld ballots. Logan's office is tentatively scheduled to certify the election results by Friday to state election officials.
"We're not declaring anything at this point, but it looks good based on logic and math," said Huey campaign manager Jimmy Camp at campaign headquarters in Torrance early Wednesday.
Huey had been considered one of the longshots in the horse derby-like field of 16 candidates who were running to fill the 36th Congressional District seat that became vacant when longtime Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) resigned in February to lead the Washington, D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars think tank. The election provided a rare opportunity for change, since Harman had represented the district since 1992. The largely coastal district has 345,232 registered voters and stretches from Venice to San Pedro and includes Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey, Del Rey, Mar Vista, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and neighboring communities.
The district skews largely Democratic with 45 percent of its voters registered as Democrats, compared with 27 percent registered as Republican and 22 percent saying they decline to state their party preference, according to the California Secretary of State's office.
Most political observers figured that Democrats Hahn, Bowen or teacher and anti-war activist Marcy Winograd, who gained 41 percent of the vote against Harman in last year's Democratic primary, would face each other in a run-off election. Winograd finished fourth in Tuesday's election with 9.5 percent of the vote.
Huey's unexpected showing was due to his "intensive grassroots operation," Camp said.
"None of the media thought it would be Hahn and Huey, but that's what it's looking like," Camp said. "Volunteers and precinct walkers, thats about what it really gets down to. We had a lot of volunteers turning out the vote for Craig Huey."
Huey, a Rolling Hills Estates businessman who lives outside the district, also had the largest campaign warchest of any candidate in the election with contributions and loans of $515,905 and $198,800 cash on hand at the end of the last federal campaign finance filing period in early May. Huey has loaned his own campaign $500,000 and received the rest of his financing in contributions.
Bowen, who was a former state Assemblywoman and state Senator from the area before gaining statewide office, held out hope that she would still face Hahn in the runoff.
"We don't have a final tally," Bowen said late Tuesday night at her campaign headquarters in Torrance. "There are thousands and thousands of ballots that are not counted. This is really typical in California elections right now, for a significant number of ballots to come in on Election Day."
Bowen noted the recent election of California Attorney General Kamala Harris in November 2010. Harris wasn't declared a winner until weeks after the election due to the high number of absentees ballots that had not been counted. In that race, Kamala's opponent, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, prematurely declared victory on election night.
Bowen's camp believes she will make the run-off election if the voting pattern for absentee ballots mailed in before the election holds up with those turned into precincts Election Day. When the absentee ballot results were released Tuesday night, Bowen had a 3 percent lead over Huey with 5,448 votes, 21.2 percent for Bowen, to Huey's 4,650 votes, 18.12 percent.
"If our percentages hold in the absentee ballots that were released (Tuesday), I'll be in the runoff," Bowen said.
Candidates who surely won't make the runoff spent time Tuesday night to thank their supporters and reflect on the campaign.
Winograd waited for election returns at Baja Cantina in Venice and reminded her backers of their mission.
"Think of what we're taking on here -- a war economy, the weapons industry, corporate control of our Congress, these are huge, huge obstacles," Winograd said "… I'm very proud of this campaign, and all the work that we have done. … We set a standard for what a campaign can be."
She was greeted by a supporter who shouted, "Thank you for raising the level of conversation in this race."
The crowd then spontaneously burst into song with Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow."
Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin met with supporters at Ortega 120, a Mexican restaurant in Redondo Beach.
"I'm really, really proud of the race I ran. I kept the campaign very positive [and] really focused on issues … that I think are really important to many people, not only in this district, but throughout the country," Gin said. "I'm very grateful that we were able to get a lot of support from outside the party as well."
Gin said that he heard from a number of Democrats who told him it was the first time they had voted for a Republican.
In total, five Democrats, six Republicans, one Libertarian, one Peace and Freedom and three candidates with no party preference ran in the election. The election was being held under the state's new "top two" system that voters approved in June 2010 when they endorsed Proposition 14. As part of the new rules, if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, then the top two finishers in the primary will face each other in a general election, even if they are from the same party.
The election cost an estimated $1.7 million. The 15.5 percent voter turnout is lower than the 2010 primary turnout of 27 percent, which had been the lowest turnout in the 36th Congressional District since 2004.
Semi-Final Results from the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office:
US REPRESENTATIVE 36 DIST TERM ENDS 01/03/13
JANICE HAHN DEM 13,137 24.66
CRAIG HUEY REP 11,648 21.87
DEBRA BOWEN DEM 11,442 21.48
MARCY WINOGRAD DEM 5,066 9.51
MIKE GIN REP 4,145 7.78
MIKE WEBB REP 3,148 5.91
PATRICK BOBKO REP 1,954 3.67
STEVE COLLETT LIB 738 1.39
STEPHEN EISELE REP 660 1.24
DANIEL H ADLER DEM 285 0.54
LORAINE GOODWIN DEM 260 0.49
MARIA E MONTANO PF 252 0.47
GEORGE NEWBERRY REP 198 0.37
MATTHEW ROOZEE NP 132 0.25
KATHERINE PILOT NP 108 0.20
MICHAEL T CHAMNESS NP 93 0.17
TOTAL PRECINCTS 261 PRECINCTS REPORTING 261 100.00
Patch editors Nicole Mooradian and Samantha Page contributed to this report.