San Diego

McCann Edges Out Padilla in Tight Race

Registrar: No More Votes Left

Former Sweetwater Board President John McCann retook the lead in the razor-close Chula Vista race for city council against former mayor Steve Padilla.

McCann is now ahead of Padilla by two votes, with 18,448 votes for McCann and 18,446 for Padilla.

On Friday, County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu said all the ballots have been adjudicated and there are no other ballots to consider. However, he has repeatedly cautioned that nothing is final until he certifies the election on Dec. 2.

"We have led in the vote count for almost the entire election and we've never been behind," McCann said. "We're hoping that we'll get certified as the new council member on Tuesday." 

The race was deadlocked in an exact tie last week.

Friday, Padilla said he thinks the election is far from over with an eye toward a recount.

"You know, I think we'll examine all those options once we know where we are with the certification," he said. "I think the process is not over. I don't think this election is decided."

The recount process could take more than a week, and Vu estimates it will cost more than $40,000. Overturning an election on a recount is not common, according to Vu, but he cautions that his assessment is based on races with margins much larger than two votes.

Recount or not, if McCann is officially victorious Tuesday, he will be sworn in as the city council representative on Dec. 9, according to the city clerk. 

"We want to get back to business at the city of Chula Vista as soon as possible, and so it would be a shame that he wouldn't just concede," McCann said.

Padilla said this race cements how much every vote matters.

"In recent days, I've been thinking, you know, you're sitting there brushing your teeth in the morning and you're thinking to yourself, 'Two votes. Who do I know that maybe could have voted and didn't or should have?''" Padilla said. "It really underscores just how important it is, and how we take for granted so much our ability to pick our own leaders. We're just so used to it." 

The last recount in San Diego County was the memorable 2010 40th state Senate District, pitting U.S. Rep Juan Vargas (D- San Diego) against then-Assemblywoman, now-Chula Vista Mayor-elect of Mary Salas. Salas stopped the recount on the third day, so Vargas won that seat by 22 votes and then went onto Congress.

This is indeed the closest race in the history of Chula Vista, according to a review of Election Day results between 1911 and 2012. City Clerk Donna Norris confirmed this election is the closest in recent history, going back to John Moot's 14-vote victory over Dennis Rowley in 1996. With Norris' help, NBC7 reviewed those election results and confirmed two votes is as close as it gets, if that margin holds.

The next closest race was in 1936 when Jerome Tucbeck came in third in an "elect-two" system, losing out to Claude Brown by just seven votes.

In 1920, there was an exact tie between L.B. Barnes and E.G. Noyes, but it was an "elect-two" system, and they were the only two candidates running, capturing exactly 69 votes each.

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