It could be Thanksgiving or later before anyone knows whether incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney or challenger David Harmer is the winner in their hotly contested race.
It could be weeks, too, before a winner is declared for the third Lodi City Council seat, with incumbent Larry Hansen and challenger John Johnson separated by just 75 votes.
And in the little Oak View School District, all six candidates are bunched within 75 votes. So voters there will be waiting for a final tally, too.
Austin Erdman, San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters, said Wednesday morning that he hopes to get all votes counted before Thanksgiving, but it may take the full 28 days each county is allowed to certify the election.
That’s because Erdman expects attorneys representing McNerney and Harmer to examine at the registrar’s office in Stockton each remaining ballot — known as “provisional ballots” — to be counted. It’s likely that attorneys from one side or the other will challenge the validity of certain ballots, which would slow down the tabulations, Erdman said.
Harmer said on Wednesday that more than 35,000 provisional ballots have yet to be counted in San Joaquin County alone. Not all of them are in the 11th Congressional District, and fewer yet are in the Lodi city limits or the Oak View district.
Harmer said he has been on the other side of the fence — in previous elections, he has been the one inspecting provisional ballots for other candidates in the registrar’s office in Stockton.
11th Congressional District
Final unofficial results show that two-term incumbent Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, led Republican challenger David Harmer, of San Ramon, by only 121 votes.
McNerney had 82,124 votes (47.5 percent) on Wednesday afternoon, and Harmer had 82,003 votes (also 47.5 percent). American Independent Party candidate David Christensen, of Tracy, got five percent of the vote, with 8,809.
But provisional ballots must be counted not only in San Joaquin County, but also in Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara counties. The district takes up the Lodi area, most of San Joaquin County, Brentwood, part of the Livermore Valley and most of the San Ramon Valley, plus Morgan Hill in southern Santa Clara County.
Both camps are confident that their candidate will prevail.
“We’re feeling pretty positive right now,” McNerney spokeswoman Sarah Hersh said. The votes that were reported early Wednesday morning were more in McNerney’s favor.
Harmer sees it differently.
Harmer noted that he was winning San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties, which have a majority of the voters in the 11th District.
If McNerney prevails, his role won’t change, despite the Republicans taking over the House leadership after Tuesday’s elections.
“His priorities remain the same — providing jobs and standing up for veterans,” Hersh said.
Harmer said he was happy with his campaign considering that, on a statewide basis, California bucked the national trend and went decidedly Democratic.
“We had to outperform people above us on the (Republican) ticket and below us on the ticket,” Harmer said.
Lodi City Council
In Lodi, Alan Nakanishi and Mayor Phil Katzakian will join the council, but for the third seat, challenger Johnson led incumbent Hansen by 75 votes on Wednesday afternoon.
There are still about 2,200 ballots to be counted in the Lodi race, Erdman said.
Johnson, a business analyst, received 4,743 votes, or 14.5 percent, while Hansen, a former police chief, received 4,668 votes, or 14.3 percent.
Both candidates say it is still too close to call, although Hansen said the results are likely to stand.
“I’m certainly going to wait until all the votes are counted,” he said. “I’m not conceding.” Nakanishi, doctor and former Assemblyman, received the most votes with 7,496, or 22.9 percent, followed by Katzakian with 5,136, or 15.7 percent.
Nakanishi had an almost 2,360-vote separation from his competition. He said he won because he had a multi-faceted campaign — yard signs, brochures, robocalls from County Supervisor Ken Vogel and Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce, and about 40 people walking precincts.
“What happens in a race, whether you are the front-runner, you have to run a tough race. The campaign I ran was a model campaign,” Nakanishi said.
He said he had an advantage in having more than $50,000 available, much of which was from his failed Board of Equalization campaign, to purchase all the advertising materials he needed.
In the past, Nakanishi has been in limbo for about two weeks waiting for the results of a political race, similar to Hansen and Johnson.
“It’s not fun to be in that position. I feel for those two candidates,” he said.
Toward the end of the campaign, Katzakian spent some extra money he had on TV and newspaper advertising and a brochure. He believes that last push propelled him into second place and gave him a cushion of 393 votes.
“Maybe if I hadn’t done that, I could be in the 75-vote spread,” Katzakian said.
He is excited to see what upcoming projects will come up in the next four years, he said.
“I get to look after some projects that I consider my pet projects,” he said.
Hansen said the election is so close this year because when seven candidates are running, it distributes the votes.
He said he did not want to speculate on why, as an incumbent, he did not receive more votes. But he said that during his eight years on council, he has always voted on what is best for the city, not what will make him popular.
“I know that has cost me votes. When you stand up for what you believe in, and people want you to change your mind, I understand how that works,” he said.
He still has a wait-and-see attitude, and is not going to step down until every vote is counted, he said. But if he does lose, he will go back to enjoying retirement.
“I have a beautiful granddaughter. I’ll take a couple of cruises, read, garden. I’ll do what retired people are supposed to do,” he said.
Johnson said he has received some e-mails from city staff discussing his new role as a council member, but responded that he has not won anything yet and wants to wait until every vote is counted.
“I think it’s premature for Larry to assume he has lost, as it is equally premature to assume that I’ve won,” Johnson said.
His ballot is probably one of the 2,200 to be counted because he voted provisionally. On election day, he went to his polling location and found out he was no longer registered to vote. A person in Southern California with the same name and birthdate registered, and so Johnson was mistakenly taken off the voter list.
He said the election system is archaic, and he is discouraged that it could take weeks to tabulate the remaining votes.
“We live in an age where I can buy anything over the Internet. I can communicate with people in an instant, and we are going to be waiting until Thanksgiving,” he said.
Retired U.S. Marshal Tony Amador received 3,832 votes, or 11.7 percent. He said it is hard to overcome candidates who have lived in Lodi for decades and have big war chests.
“I really don’t think any of the six other people, and this isn’t ego speaking, is any more qualified. I think I’m even more qualified,” Amador said.
He is not sure what his next move is politically, but Amador would like to still be involved.
“I still have a lot of fire in the belly, and I’m in good shape. ... I’ve got a lot to contribute. Public service is in the back of my mind, but we haven’t decided on what,” he said.
Local business owner Jay Patel received 3,434 votes, or 10.5 percent. He does not know what will happen in two or four years, but for now, he will continue raising his kids and working on his business.
“I am disappointed that Lodi was not looking for the change it needed. I don’t think they are ready for a fiscal conservative minority,” Patel said.
This election set a bad precedent because the top four candidates received so much money, he said. It made getting elected unattainable for newcomers that don’t have name recognition, Patel said.
“Dollars and name recognition is more important than ideas and policies. It is more like a beauty pageant than an election,” he said.
Paramedic Tim Reed finished last with 3,380 votes, or 10.3 percent, and did not respond to a call for comment. In the Oak View School District in eastern Acampo, incumbent Mark Huft was leading on Wednesday, but it’s a three-way horse race for the final two seats. Unofficial results show Huft with 301 votes to lead the pack. Incumbent Carol Pehl had 270 votes, incumbent Jeanne Pearson was next with 267, and challenger John Vermeltfoort had 266.
Trailing in the voting are challengers Joel Maldonado Jr., with 252 votes, and Deborah Ward-Crummey, with 232.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.