Hanging by a Thread: Close Elections in San Diego

Four races characterize the significance of late votes in this election

Congressman Brian Bilbray went to sleep on election night with the satisfaction he had won the race to represent California’s 52nd Congressional District.

But he and his campaign team woke up Wednesday to an entirely new reality.

With just 685 votes, his opponent, Port Commissioner Scott Peters, took a narrow lead. The race tied up in the early morning hours Wednesday as late Democratic votes began to factor in.

"I'm pretty confident,” Peters said of his lead. “I've been in this position a few times in previous elections and I know there's a process but I'm getting ready to help represent California in the 52nd district in Washington DC."

There are still roughly 475,000 absentee ballots that need to be tallied though, and employees at the county registrar’s office have been working feverishly to bring an end to that race and several others throughout the county.

For updates on the 52nd congressional district race, click here.

Even closer than the congressional race in San Diego’s southern coastal region were several smaller races scattered around the north and east county.

The San Marcos City Council race, for instance, is separated by just 35 votes. Second-place Mike Hansen leads in front of Sharon Jenkins for the second seat on the council.

In Vista, 51 votes separate Amanda Young Rigby from Cliff Kaiser in the race for a second seat on the city’s council.

And in the San Dieguito High School District, a school bond measure is just 293 votes short of passing. Bonds like Prop. AA have seen mixed results – only a few passed with a significant lead.

The closest race was between two candidates on the Alpine Community Planning Board. As of Wednesday afternoon, just three votes separated Michael Milligan and Rodger Garay for the eighth and final seat on the board.

Click here to see election results for all races.

The close races characterize the significance of late votes in this election, which tend to be left-leaning. It’s what gave U.S. Rep. Bob Filner a last-minute victory in San Diego’s mayoral race, and what resuscitated Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure, Prop. 30, from its slated demise.

Other political experts say the new open primary system played a big role in close races like these. The system sends the two top finishers to the general election, regardless of party.

Registrar employees are working around the clock to tally results -- some of whom worked from 9 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday. A new shift of employees took over from there in the hopes of delivering results to a county on the edge of its seat.

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