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Democrat Machado Wins State Senate Seat

November 30, 2000|CARL INGRAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — The last ballots in a tight Nov. 7 election for a state Senate seat were counted Wednesday, giving a narrow victory to Democrat Mike Machado.

Unofficial final figures from San Joaquin and Sacramento counties handed Machado, a "termed-out" Assemblyman from Linden, a 1,379-vote win over Republican Alan Nakanishi, a Lodi physician.

In California's tightest legislative election this year, Machado finally edged Nakanishi, 142,392 votes to 141,013, or 48.1% to 47.6%.

Machado had led by a wafer-thin margin on election night, when officials suspended counting, leaving untallied batches of provisional ballots and absentee returns.

Debbie Hench, San Joaquin County interim registrar of voters, finished a 23-day count Wednesday. Sacramento County did so earlier.

"I'm thankful," a relieved Machado said. "This has been a very trying several weeks. It's a lot easier to use my muscles to smile now."

At stake in the big-spending race, which totaled nearly $4 million, was the vacant 5th Senate District seat of Sen. Patrick Johnston (D-Stockton). He was forced into retirement by term limits.

Capture of the once solidly Democratic district, where Republicans have posted hefty gains in recent elections, was the Senate GOP's top priority.

For Republicans, Nakanishi's defeat further suppressed their minority status from 15 to 14 in the 40-member chamber, the fewest in nearly a generation.

Senate Democrats got a net gain of one seat by ousting GOP Sen. Richard Rainey of Walnut Creek. This gave Democrats a new majority of 26, one short of a two-thirds majority needed to pass the state budget without Republican votes.

However, a Democratic vacancy will occur soon when Sen. Hilda Solis (D-La Puente) resigns to take her newly won seat in the U.S. House. A special election for her 24th Senate District seat in Los Angeles County probably will be held in March, sources said.

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