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Harris increases lead over Cooley in attorney general race

November 16, 2010 |  7:24 pm

San Francisco Dist. Atty. Kamala Harris’ lead in the race for California attorney general continued to grow Tuesday, making a possible comeback appear increasingly difficult for her rival, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley.

Harris, the Democratic nominee, led by 31,000 votes Tuesday evening with more than 555,000 uncounted ballots still left to be processed across California, according to a Times review of updated vote counts in all 58 counties.

Working against Cooley, the Republican, is the fact that some 350,000 of the remaining ballots are in counties that Harris carried on election day.

Perhaps as an indication of the vote trend, Cooley’s campaign aides over the past five days have been filing complaints about what they allege is bias toward Harris on the part of Los Angeles County elections officials.

Cooley aides have accused county officials of having private meeting with Harris campaign representatives. Cooley’s campaign attorney also criticized procedures for reviewing ballots, saying election workers are not taking adequate time to verify voter signatures on the unprocessed ballots.

Cooley has personally called Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan twice, Logan confirmed Tuesday.

Harris campaign spokesman Brian Brokaw called the allegations an attempt by the Cooley campaign to disqualify voters in Los Angeles County, where Harris has a 14% advantage in the vote.

"It’s pretty transparent what they are trying to do. They are doing everything they can to reduce the number of provisional ballots in L.A.," Brokaw said.

Cooley spokesman Kevin Spillane denied that accusation, saying the campaign is trying to ensure that Harris and her team of monitors -- who include government employee union representatives -- at the county registrar of voters don’t have an undue influence on the vote tally.

Logan said no private meetings have been held, and elections workers have followed all state laws when it comes to verifying ballots. Still, in response to the Cooley campaign’s concerns, he said he reminded workers to make thorough checks on all ballots and to keep the process transparent.

"We recognize that there’s a lot of tension and emotion when you have a contest this close," Logan said.

The race has been one of the closest statewide contests in decades, with the lead see-sawing between Harris and Cooley since the Nov. 2 election as county workers throughout California started the laborious process of verifying and tallying up an estimated 2.3 million late-arriving vote-by-mail and provisional ballots.

-- Phil Willon


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