Slightly wider lead for Harris in AG race

As of 9 a.m. this morning, Democrat Kamala Harris led Republican Steve Cooley by 17,015 votes – 0.2 percent of those cast – in the race for state attorney general.

Tiny as it sounds, that’s a wider margin than we’ve seen at any point since Election Day. Early Wednesday afternoon, Harris led by about 14,800 votes; yesterday evening, Cooley’s campaign issued a memo saying the gap had closed to 9,364 votes.

The Cooley campaign’s memo was, predictably, confident of eventual success:

Steve is currently running almost 15 points ahead of Republican statewide registration and over 12 points above the top of the GOP ticket. Steve also cut by more than half the Democratic margin in LA County, which the rest of the ticket was losing by roughly 30 points or more.

Steve carried 40 out of California’s 58 counties. The significance of that number is that estimates show there are more ballots to be tabulated in counties carried by Steve Cooley rather than in those counties carried by Kamala Harris. For example, there are 74,000 more ballots to be counted in Orange and San Diego Counties, which Cooley carried, than in Los Angeles County.

There appear to be roughly 1.3 million or so absentee and provisional ballots to be counted. This is a huge number – particularly given that the AG’s race is essentially a tie.

The Cooley campaign is working with local election officials in key counties to monitor the vote tabulation. We are also working closely with legal counsel to be prepared for any and all potential developments.

Harris’ consultant, Ace Smith, was also involved in the extremely close Attorney General’s race which his father lost to Dan Lungren. During the vote tabulation for that race, Smith filed legal challenges – which ultimately were thrown out – to attempt to skew the result by disenfranchising voters in counties supportive of Lungren. We are prepared to fight any such manipulations of the ballot counting process by the Harris campaign.

Given the number of votes remaining, and where those votes are coming from, the Cooley campaign is optimistic about its chances. The numbers will fluctuate – perhaps quite a bit – because county registrars report and update numbers on different timelines. Several have told us they will not be finished until Thanksgiving and some may go until the official certification of the vote deadline of December 3rd. We expect no clear outcome for a minimum of two weeks. We will keep you updated.

All of which is true. But… it won’t matter how many counties Cooley carried; lots of statewide elected officials didn’t carry most of the counties. They carry the population centers, and Harris swept the Bay Area and Cooley’s home county of Los Angeles, the latter with a big, late surge that means the last-minute ballots yet to be counted are likely to break in her favor, her campaign says.

What’s indubitably true is that this race is far from over.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • John W

    The fact that uncounted ballots in Orange and San Diego exceed those in LA would seem to give Cooley reason to be optimistic.