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Harris' lead over Cooley grows in attorney general race

The Democrat is ahead by about 40,000, with about 300,000 ballots left to count.

November 20, 2010|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times

San Francisco Dist. Atty. Kamala Harris increased her lead Friday over Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley in the still-unresolved race for California attorney general.

Harris, the Democratic candidate, led by 42,114 votes, with 305,004 uncounted ballots left to be processed across California, according to a Times review of updated vote counts in all 58 counties. Of those ballots, 185,937 are in counties Harris carried on election day, and 119,067 are in counties that Cooley, the Republican, carried.

"We're confident that once all the votes are counted, Kamala Harris will come out ahead," said Harris campaign spokesman Brian Brokaw. "She's improving her margins in counties where she won, and in counties where Cooley had performed well previously, he's not picking up the votes that he needs to."

Brokaw said Cooley gained only 321 more votes than Harris on Friday in San Diego County, which Cooley carried on election day and where he was still ahead by a wide margin.

Brokaw said Harris expects to keep her lead in Los Angeles County, which was at 14 percentage points late Friday. L.A. County has more unprocessed ballots than any other county in the state, about 56,000.

Cooley would have to win the statewide pool of remaining votes by about 13.7 percentage points to overcome Harris' lead.

"We lost ground," said Cooley campaign spokesman Kevin Spillane. He added that the campaign expects to see gains next week, especially in some Central Valley counties.

"The margin has fluctuated, and we think it will fluctuate again," Spillane said. "We are still getting conflicting information about what votes are left to count, which creates an additional element of uncertainty."

Harris and Cooley have repeatedly traded the lead since Nov. 2 in what has shaped up to be one of the closest statewide contests in decades, as county workers have verified an estimated 2.3 million late-arriving vote-by-mail and provisional ballots.

Spillane said Friday that although the campaign had not challenged vote tallies in any particular county or called for a recount, "we're keeping all options open."

The state is not likely to issue a final vote tally until near the end of the month, when counties are required by law to certify their counts.

Most of the remaining votes statewide are provisional ballots, given to voters when polling places do not have a record of their registration, often because a voter has moved.

Before a provisional ballot can be counted, election officials must verify that the voter was registered and that the signature on the ballot matches voter registration records. Provisional ballots must also be checked to make sure that votes were not cast in local elections outside the jurisdiction in which the voter lived.

About 80% to 85% of provisional ballots are usually deemed valid, said Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean C. Logan.

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

Times staff writer Phil Willon contributed to this report.

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