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Uncounted ballots, close finishes delay outcome of race to replace Jane Harman

May 18, 2011 | 10:53 am

The nail-biting for top finishers in Tuesday's special election to replace former Rep. Jane Harman will continue for at least a few more days, until county elections officials can finish counting an estimated 9,811 remaining ballots.

Election night returns for the seat showed none of the 16 candidates came anywhere near winning the majority needed to avoid a July 12 runoff.  The question is, which two candidates will be on the ballot then?

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn finished first, with 13,137 votes, or 24.66%. Republican businessman Craig Huey, a first-time candidate who poured $500,000 of his own money into his campaign, finished second with 11,648 votes, or 21.87%  But Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who with Hahn had been considered a front-runner, finished just 206 votes behind Huey, with 21.48%.

Hahn and Bowen are both Democrats and Huey is a Republican. In the South Bay-based 36th Congressional District, Democrats hold a nearly 18-point registration edge.

"This has been a very spirited campaign and it remains very close," the Bowen camp said in a statement released early Wednesday. "We are confident Debra Bowen will be in the runoff."

County elections chief Dean C. Logan said he expected the counting of the unprocessed ballots to be finished and the election results certified on Friday.

Turnout was somewhat less than 16% and nearly half the ballots were cast by mail. For latest counts, see: L.A. County election results.

-- Jean Merl