CD11: McNerney declares victory, Harmer fights on

Incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, declared victory Wednesday evening in his race to retain his 11th Congressional District seat, saying the remaining ballots couldn’t possibly put Republican challenger David Harmer back on top.

“With the vast majority of votes tallied, the results are clear. Congressman McNerney now has an insurmountable lead,” McNerney campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release.

Not so fast, cautioned Harmer.

“On Election Night, when I led by thousands of votes, and supporters were congratulating me and calling me Congressman, I cautioned that it was too early to claim victory. Many votes remained to be counted,” he said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday evening. “That is still the case tonight. Just as it would have been premature to claim victory then, it would be premature to concede defeat now.

“As I said the day after the election, my objective is to ensure that every legitimate vote is accurately counted. Once that has been done, I will offer a statement about the results.”

As of Wednesday evening, McNerney led Harmer by 1,681 votes, or about seven-tenths of a percent of the almost 231,000 ballots counted. A previous update, on Tuesday night, had shown McNerney up by 2,269 votes, but Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Santa Clara counties posted updates Wednesday.

Registrars in the four counties within the district continue to tally votes, and don’t expect to certify their final counts until at least Nov. 24.

McNerney — now seeking a third term in the House of Representatives — leads Harmer — an attorney from San Ramon’s Dougherty Valley area — in Alameda County by about 15.5 percentage points and in Santa Clara County by 8.2 points.

Harmer leads McNerney by about one-fifth of a point in Contra Costa County and by 4.3 points in San Joaquin County, the latter of which includes the largest chunk of the 11th District. San Joaquin County is also where American Independent nominee David Christensen fared best, with almost 7.1 percent of the votes cast; districtwide, he took about 5.1 percent.

McNerney’s campaign argued Wednesday that based on the trends so far, Harmer could close the gap by fewer than 300 votes from the 11,000 remaining provisional and vote-by-mail ballots in San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties, while McNerney could expect to pick up more votes than Harmer from among about 700 still-uncounted ballots in Alameda and Santa Clara counties.

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.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    According to CSPAN, the CD11 race is one of only two undecided. Have you been interviewed by CSPAN yet Steve?

  • Tom Benigno

    I thought the 11th district race has already been decided, and Mc Nerney has won by a great number of votes. Fill me in if I’m wrong.

  • Gus Morrison

    The Secretary of State web site has a “Close Contests” page which shows McNerney about 2500 votes ahead of Harmer, leading by about 0.9%.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    Tom, pending Mr. Weir’s explanation, there are a number of ways winners are declared: 1. By themselves.
    2. When the uncounted votes are less than the margin of victory. 3. When all losing candidates have conceded. 4. When the LWV, or the News Media has declared a winner. 5. When the Secretary of State has certified the election, 28 days after the election date. (The only official way in multi-County elections.)

  • Tom Benigno

    There is one other way? When the candidate goes to Washinton D.C. and plays the winning congressman.

  • steve weir

    The question of when someone is elected is simple. When we complete the canvass, and certify the results. Then, and only then, is someone elected. The next step is for that person to take their oath of office (and file a bond when required).

    Without all of these steps, a person cannot take office, act in any official capacity, and be reimbursed (paid).

    Ralph is correctly, except that the Counties have 28 days to certify, and the SOS has until the 32nd day after the election to compile those certified results.

    The canvass has become more-and-more complicated because it is not only counting the cast ballots, it includes an extensive accounting for ballots issued, voted, spoiled, and not voted.

    With the ever increasing use of vote-by-mail balloting, and with more than 67% of those cast ballots coming in the last 9 days (election day accounted for 25% of all cast vote-by-mail ballots), our canvass takes on more work. That work must be performed in a sequence to detect and prevent someone from voting twice (or three times).

    Contra Costa has a logical and well thought out process that documents the chain of custody (who did what with the ballots)that also slows our canvass process.

    I hate to say this, but I am going to explore the use of signature verifying software (now in use in several Bay Area counties) to streamline our signature checking process. This process can be set to include 60 0r 70 0r 80% match criteria.

    In addition, we have been HAND COUNTING write in votes for designated write-in candidates when those candidates cannot even approach 5% of the vote required to win. There has to be a way to respect both candidates and voters who choose a write-in option, without having to go through almost 400,000 ballots. (There are legitimate cases for write-in candidates. However, with rare exceptions, most write-in votes are seemingly protest votes and are not for registered write-in candidates.

  • John W

    Steve Weir — with the new open primary system, we won’t have write-ins in the general election, right? Seems like that should alleviate the workload somewhat. On the other hand, with independent redistricting, we could have more close races for legislative seats, leading to more of these long waits for races to be decided.

    I think this is my last election using vote-by-mail. As I recall, I got on permanent VBM when I first moved to the state in 2004 and registered at the DMV. What’s the procedure for getting off permanent VBM?

  • steveweir

    Right, Prop 14 eliminates write-ins in the General Elections.

    To change your status, send us a note stating that you would like to be removed from the Permanent Vote-by-Mail category.

    State your name and address, and sign your request.

    that’ll do it.

  • steveweir

    Congress is the judge of their own elections. (Article I, Sec. 5 / 1)