Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn appears likely to face Republican businessman Craig Huey in a July 12 runoff for the 36th district after the self-funding GOP candidate squeaked by another Democrat who had been expected to place in the top two in Tuesday’s special primary election.
The surprise result means Hahn will likely capture the seat, given the district is solidly Democratic. It was the state’s first Congressional test of the “top two,” all-party primary format.
Hahn won 24.7 percent of the vote while Huey nabbed 21.9 percent, outperforming 14 other candidates. Huey barely edged out California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who had been expected to advance to the runoff.
Bowen won 21.5 percent of the vote with all 261 precincts reporting. There were just 206 votes separating Bowen and Huey based on the first count, and the Bowen campaign appeared to be holding out hope she could prevail.
Los Angeles County Clerk Dean Logan tweeted last night there were an estimated 9,811 ballots left to be counted. That includes ballots from 8,416 people who voted by mail, 1,269 provisional ballots and 126 damaged ballots. A manual tally will begin Wednesday, Logan said.
The seat could have been won outright had someone taken more than 50 percent of the vote, but that result was unlikely with such a crowded field.
Anti-war activist Marcy Winograd (D) was the next closest vote-getter with 9.5 percent, followed by Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin (R), who took 7.8 percent, and Redondo Beach City Attorney Michael Webb (R) with 5.9 percent.
Huey had outspent the others, spending more than $317,000 on a radio and television advertising campaign through April 27, according to the most recent Fedeal Election Commission filings. He is a conservative who publishes online voter guides as president of Creative Direct Marketing Group. His campaign website urges voters to "stop the insanity" in Washington. He has served on the Republican Central Committee, according to his biography.
Entertainment industry executive Dan Adler (D), whose campaign manager was actor Sean Astin, took 0.5 percent, or just 285 votes. That's despite a last-minute tweet from Charlie Sheen backing his candidacy.
The Hahn-Bowen showdown had been expected since the two announced their candidacies to replace former Rep. Jane Harman (D), who resigned in February from the seat she had held for all but two years since 1993.
Hahn, whose family has a rich political history in Southern California, launched her campaign the day Harman announced her plans. Harman, who calls Hahn her little sister, called Hahn early that morning to give her a heads-up.
Hahn ran for the seat and lost in 1998 when Harman ran for governor, but this time she was campaigning with more than a decade of experience on the city council. She took the majority of major labor and Congressional endorsements, which immediately crystallized her credibility.
But Bowen, who was just elected statewide for a second term, took the major environmental and liberal endorsements. Bowen campaign manager Dan Chavez said in a statement early Wednesday morning that the race was "a very spirited campaign and it remains very close."
"There are 9,811 ballots that still need to be processed — more than enough to make up the difference. We are confident Debra Bowen will be in the runoff," he said.
Like Hahn, Bowen has deep roots in the area, having represented 90 percent of the 36th district over 14 years in the state Legislature. She spent the past few months drumming up local support by reminding voters about that experience.
There was little outside money spent on the race.
The district, which is loosely bordered to the east and west by Interstate 405 and the Pacific Ocean, runs down the coastline from Venice, past the picturesque beach cities and inland to Torrance, the largest city in the district. It also reaches to the south to include the bulk of San Pedro, which, along with Venice, resides within the Los Angeles city limits.
Nathan L. Gonzales contributed to this report.