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November 13, 2012 > Calif. House candidates wait for vote count update

Calif. House candidates wait for vote count update

By Garance Burke, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP), Nov 09 - Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack and her Democratic challenger, Raul Ruiz, were awaiting elections officials' latest update of outstanding votes Friday in their heated congressional race in the desert communities surrounding Palm Springs.

Of the three U.S. House contests in California that remained too close to call, Bono Mack had the largest margin to make up of any Republican incumbent. As of Friday afternoon, she trailed Ruiz by 4,679 votes, out of 166,000 counted.

County officials were still counting millions of ballot statewide three days after the election, and both campaigns were poised for elections officials' announcement Friday of the latest tally of mail-in and provisional votes.

In the suburbs south of Sacramento, GOP Rep. Dan Lungren was struggling to fend off Democratic physician Ami Bera, who held a slight advantage with only absentee ballots left to count. Lungren trailed his opponent by 184 votes out of 176,000 counted.

In San Diego, GOP Rep. Brian Bilbray's race against Democratic challenger Scott Peters was still a tossup Friday. Bilbray was behind by 814 votes out of 210,000 counted.

In Riverside County, elections officials had about 164,000 ballots left to count. San Diego County estimated about 375,000 left to count, while Sacramento County reported working through the 193,000 ballots it had left.

California's congressional races have grown much more competitive since an independent panel redrew the district boundaries in 2010, the same year the U.S. Supreme Court struck down limits on outside political spending.

State congressional races drew intense interest nationally, after gerrymandered strongholds were transformed into free-for-alls rich with campaign cash from groups as varied as Planned Parenthood and Americans for Tax Reform, headed by low-tax crusader Grover Norquist.

Super PACs and other outside groups flooded California's House races with more money than any other state under new rules allowing unrestricted outside political spending. By Tuesday, spending had reached nearly $54 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

County registrars have 28 days after the election to finalize results under California law, but any candidate or voter can ask for a recount within the following five days. Should that occur, local elections officials can appoint four voters to oversee a special recount board, a process that could take weeks to finalize.

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