The long, divisive road to the 52nd Congressional District seat stretches on for its two weary candidates, incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Peters and former San Diego city councilman Carl DeMaio, as officials prepare Thursday to start counting around 46,000 still-uncounted ballots.
Exhausted by a late election night that left DeMaio leading by just 752 votes, both candidates are trying to put a positive spin on the numbers.
“This is a historically bad night for Democrats, turnout historically low, and the fact that we're even close is a miracle. I think we're going to win this thing," Peters said at a news conference Wednesday evening.
The initial surge of results had DeMaio in the lead, but as the late ballots came in Tuesday night, the trend was in favor of Peters.
But DeMaio was just as confident that his campaign will come out on top.
“I believe when all votes are counted, we will prevail, and I will have the honor of being San Diego’s voice in the U.S. Congress,” he said at a Wednesday morning news conference.
The San Diego County Registrar of Voters says there were 36,000 mail-in ballots and 10,000 provisional ballots from the 52nd District to be counted, and all were sorted Wednesday.
On Thursday, the counting starts on those 46,000 ballots. Both candidates are sending representatives to make sure each vote is counted correctly.
The registrar is expected to release more numbers Thursday evening, and a final winner should be announced Monday.
But even after the ballots were cast, the biting comments remained.
When asked if he is prepared for a recount in the event of a very close final tally, DeMaio replied, “After what Mr. Peters has done in this campaign, I wouldn’t be surprised by anything.”
Peters’ response later in the day: “I think the campaign's over now. We can get past the hard feelings, stop whining. You know, let's just count the votes."
With nothing to do but wait, both candidates had time to reflect on their contentious campaigns and their plans for the future.
DeMaio will be hopping a plane to Washington, D.C., next week to attend the Congressional freshman orientation.
“What I emphasized last night was that my candidacy hopefully is the beginning of the Republican Party becoming more inclusive, of us getting past labels and putting people in boxes,” the gay candidate said.
While DeMaio zeroed in on reforming his own party, Peters said his focus will be reaching across the aisle in the now Republican-led Congress.
"Well the middle is my territory. I don't think there's enough of us who want to be in the middle,” he said. “I think one of the problems with Congress is it's so polarized and what I offer is a promise that I will always work with anybody."
Voters will continue to watch the results of the race closely, but the end of election season brings one thing both sides can be thankful for: no more political ads.