Harris photo Steve Rhodes/FlickrSteve Cooley and Kamala Harris
UPDATE: Kamala Harris, district attorney of San Francisco, is the winner in California's race for attorney general, the LA Weekly has declared.
If official, her defeat of Republican Steve Cooley makes Harris the first woman and first African American to take the top law enforcement position, and completes a sweep of Democratic candidates for statewide offices.
Cooley has conceded the race already, according to the Bee. But the Harris campaign - worried about a "Dewey Beats Truman" repeat - is holding back from a full-on declaration of victory. In a statement, campaign manager Brian Brokaw said:
District Attorney Harris thanks District Attorney Cooley for a spirited campaign and looks forward to working together on the critical public safety challenges facing California. The counties continue to tabulate votes, and District Attorney Harris believes it is only appropriate to wait until all the votes are counted before making a public declaration. She will be holding a press conference on Tuesday, November 30, the deadline for counties to report final counts to the Secretary of State.
The Los Angeles Times also reported that Harris' win over Cooley was "all but certain." Here's the Weekly's logic in calling the race with 124,000 ballots still to be counted as of 2:50 p.m. yesterday:
The county websites have more up-to-date figures in some cases than the Secretary of State. Using those numbers, we can say that Harris is leading by 49,535 votes. (2:50 update: 51,141 votes.) Given the geographic breakdown of the remaining uncounted ballots, we expect her to expand her lead by another 10,000 votes or so, ending up with a margin of six tenths of a percent (46.0-45.4).
In order to win the race, Cooley would have to win the remaining uncounted votes by a margin of 66-26. (Update at 2:50: Cooley would now have to win by 72-20.) The likelihood of that happening is extremely close to zero. One of his best counties was Orange County, and his margin there was only 60-31.
Our original post from Monday below:
* * *
On Monday, at least two more counties finished tallying mail-in and provisional ballots and posted final results on their election websites. With these updated totals from Tulare [PDF] and Madera counties, Democrat Kamala Harris’ lead over Republican Steve Cooley shrank by 8,045.
Those ballots represent less than a thousandth of a percentage point of all votes cast in the race.
But small numbers (and counties) matter a great deal at this late stage, a week from the final election-reporting deadline for counties. The California secretary of state must certify final election results on Dec. 10.*
Harris, San Francisco's district attorney, holds a roughly 35,000 vote edge over Cooley, Los Angeles’ district attorney, based on California Watch’s unofficial tabulation of results from several state and county election websites. More than a dozen counties, including Madera and Tulare, haven’t reported any updated results to the state for weeks.
The secretary of state's most recent tally shows Harris' lead expanding, to 51,000 votes, or a half of a percentage point.
Sonoma County appears second only to Los Angeles County in its number of uncounted ballots, which stands at 33,000. The county’s vote-processing system requires a full recount after Election Day in order to input write-in ballots, said Gloria Colter, Sonoma’s assistant registrar of voters.
“We’re trying desperately to get everything rerun by Wednesday,” she said.
It is these kinds of scenarios keep the outcome in question.
“One thing to keep in mind is these are all just estimates of what is outstanding,” said Brian Brokaw, a Harris spokesman. “For all we know, ballots could appear from different counties that haven’t been reported yet.”
For much of the past week, both sides focused on Los Angeles County. Cooley’s campaign called for more volunteers to watch the counting. Harris’ team in turn suggested their opponent might be attempting to disenfranchise voters.
The theatrics reached all the way to The Wall Street Journal, where John Fund last week highlighted concerns over Dean Logan, Los Angeles County’s voter registrar.
Fund detailed ballot-counting problems during Logan’s tenure in King County, Wash. To quote:
Mr. Logan's track record should raise concerns that proper procedures for vote counting are once again not being fully followed in California's AG race. If prompt action to ensure the integrity of the election process isn't taken now, we may see calls for Los Angeles County to appoint its own task force to investigate Mr. Logan's ‘practiced incompetence.’
Much of the action in the few remaining days of counting, however, will be taking place in counties like Sonoma and San Joaquin.
* Correction: The post originally said election results would be certified Dec. 3.