SACRAMENTO — Democrat Freddie Rodriguez eked out a narrow win in a special election Tuesday to fill a vacant Inland Empire Assembly seat.
Rodriguez, a Pomona city councilman, won 51.1% of the vote, according to results posted by the California secretary of State on Wednesday. Ontario Mayor Paul Leon, who ran as an independent, had 48.9%.
The election was held to fill the seat vacated by now-state Sen. Norma Torres (D-Pomona). Only 8% of the district's 177,000 registered voters cast a ballot.
Rodriguez declared victory on election night, saying in a statement he looked forward "to being a voice for all of the people of the Inland Empire, and for safer neighborhoods, at the state Capitol."
Around 270 ballots remain uncounted, but they are not expected to change the election's outcome. In a statement Wednesday, Leon congratulated Rodriguez and said he looked forward "to working with him as he represents our community in Sacramento."
Democrats have a 20-point registration advantage in the 52nd District.
Rodriguez had the backing of the state Democratic party and labor groups including the AFL-CIO and the California Teachers Assn.
Leon ran as a Republican in a bid for the state Senate earlier this year. He lost to Torres by 19 points.
This time Leon declined to designate a party. On his campaign website he said, "although my values haven't changed, I've learned the dangers of partisan politics."
Tenoch Flores, communications director for the California Democratic Party, said Leon's decision to run as an independent was a sign of "the radioactivity of the Republican brand."
By not running as a Republican, Flores said, Leon "may have siphoned away a few votes, but in the end voters saw through it and voted for the genuine article."
With a Rodriguez win, Democrats will have 53 members in the Assembly, one short of two-thirds control of the chamber, with two other vacancies still to be filled.