The race for California attorney general continues in full even as Election Day fast becomes a memory.
Republican Steve Cooley and Democrat Kamala Harris have traded leads of a percentage point over the past week. Meanwhile, both campaigns are still collecting donations as they expect weeks more of uncertainty and potential recounts.
Harris photo Steve Rhodes/FlickrSteve Cooley and Kamala Harris
A week ago, Harris, San Francisco’s district attorney, held a 9,000-vote advantage over Cooley, the top prosecutor in Los Angeles.
As of 4:10 p.m. Wednesday, the California secretary of state’s office reported that Cooley stood above Harris by 11,400 ballots.
That margin appears very unlikely to hold as 48 of the state’s counties continue to count about a million remaining mail and provisional ballots.
California’s county election offices must certify their results by Dec. 3. At that point, any candidate or voter can challenge the vote totals by requesting a recount.
On this matter, the California Election Code, section 15621, reads:
Following completion of the official canvass, any voter may, within five days beginning on the 29th day after a statewide election, file with the secretary of state a written request for a recount of the votes cast for candidates for any statewide office or for or against any measure voted on statewide. The request shall specify in which county or counties the recount is sought and shall specify on behalf of which candidate, slate of electors, or position on a measure (affirmative or negative) it is filed.
The downside of asking for a recount is that, unless the second tally changes the result, the campaign must pay for all the work.
Further complicating matters, the campaigns would have to request a recount county by county, with each jurisdiction potentially charging a different amount per day for its services.
State law doesn’t specify any limits on how much a county can charge for recounting, said Shannon Velayas, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office.
California is far from finished with its first count of all the votes.
The counties with the largest number of uncounted ballots (Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento and San Diego) offer few clues on whether Harris or Cooley will win.
While Harris has dominated in Los Angeles and Contra Costa counties, the gains she is likely to secure from mail and provisional ballots there could be easily offset by losses in Orange and San Diego.
Kevin Spillane, a Cooley spokesman, said he expects the lead to continue switching over the next several weeks.
Cooley is unlikely to seek a recount unless he ends up behind by a tiny number of votes.
“If it’s 1,000 or 2,000 ballots, then maybe it’s justified,” Spillane said. “If somebody’s ahead by 20,000 to 25,000 ballots, you’re not going to change those numbers with a recount. So we’ll just have to see what the margin is.”
Brian Brokaw, a Harris spokesman, said the campaign is researching its legal options, which include requesting a recount. He declined to specify what actions Harris might take should she remain behind in the final vote count.
Since Oct. 31, Cooley’s campaign has reported $116,000 in large donations ($1,000 or more), data from the secretary of state shows.
Those funds were committed earlier in the race or arrived unsolicited, Spillane said. Additional fundraising would be critical to mounting a recount effort.
Harris has cashed checks for $42,650 during the same period. Brokaw said the late contributions are not earmarked for a recount.
“What we’ve been raising money for is to keep our campaign running,” he said. “And that means paying the bills to keep the lights on.”