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Things get nasty as attorney general's race heads into overtime

November 5, 2010 | 10:57 am

With more than 7 million ballots counted, and as many as 2 million still left to tally, the race for California attorney general remains undecided. But the hostilities between the campaigns seem to have escalated while the fate of the second-most-powerful office in California remains undecided.

On thursday, Ace Smith, a consultant for Democrat Kamala Harris, sent an e-mail to reporters with the subject line "Why Kamala Harris will be the next Attorney General of California." The note included an analysis of where the remaining uncounted ballots were and why they would only increase Harris' narrow lead over Republican Steve Cooley.

(As of 10 a.m. Friday, Harris was clinging to a 17,000-vote lead.)

"The late absentee ballots will reflect Harris’s late surge in the race -– which was captured both in public and private polling," Smith wrote.

Later that day, the Cooley campaign sent out an e-mail of its own from campaign manager Kevin Spillane. That's when things got a little personal.

"Harris' consultant, Ace Smith, was also involved in the extremely close Attorney General's race which his father lost to Dan Lungren," Spillane wrote. "During the vote tabulation for that race, Smith filed legal challenges -- which ultimately were thrown out -- to attempt to skew the result by disenfranchising voters in counties supportive of Lungren. We are prepared to fight any such manipulations of the ballot counting process by the Harris campaign."

Arlo Smith lost the 1990 race for attorney general to Lungren after leading the vote count on election day. Lawyers were eventually called in, but Lungren wound up winning the race by fewer than 30,000 votes.

Like Harris, Smith was the district attorney of San Francisco when he ran for attorney general. Whether or not she suffers the same electoral fate will be determined in the weeks to come.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento

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