2 California congressional candidates tied. Now, recount requests are complicating it even further

Julia Wick, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

LOS ANGELES — The astonishing saga of a tied Silicon Valley congressional race took another zag this week, with multiple citizens submitting official requests for recounts.

Two candidates tied for second place in the primary to replace retiring Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., meaning both they and the first-place finisher will face off in the November general election, per California elections code. All three are prominent local Democrats who fielded serious campaigns in the primary.

The slated three-way race is, to put it mildly, a highly unusual outcome, even in the wild world of California politics.

It is the first time this has happened in a congressional race since the state shifted to its nonpartisan primary system in 2012, which dictates that the top two finishers advance to the November ballot regardless of party affiliation.

A recount could theoretically put a kibosh on a November three-way race, if the vote totals change. The calls for recounts — which could cost the citizen requesters hundreds of thousands of dollars — have also raised questions about who is truly behind the effort and generated a fresh round of campaign mud-slinging.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and Assemblymember Evan Low, who repeatedly traded positions while votes were being counted, each finished with 30,249 votes. The first-place finisher, former San José Mayor Sam Liccardo, has a secure spot on the November ballot even if a handful of votes shift in a recount. Liccardo finished with 38,489 votes, well ahead of his challengers.


"It's hard to believe this is really happening," veteran Democratic strategist Darry Sragow said with a laugh of the latest twists in the race.

Sragow — who has been involved in campaigns since Richard Nixon was president — said he'd never dealt with a tie election result during his five decades in politics. It's not something that strategists ever plan for or even think about, he said.

The district is overwhelmingly Democratic and encompasses parts of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, including the cities of Palo Alto and Mountain View and part of the city of San Jose.

Santa Clara and San Mateo county election officials both said they were preparing to start recounting votes on Monday, so long as they received the necessary financial deposits from the requesters.


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