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Kamala Harris wins attorney general's race as Steve Cooley concedes [Updated]

November 24, 2010 | 10:35 am

http://opinion.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c7de353ef0120a78ead93970b-320wiMore than three weeks after he declared victory in the race for state attorney general, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley conceded defeat Wednesday as he trailed by more than 50,000 votes in one of the closest statewide races in California history.

The decision means that San Francisco Dist. Atty. Kamala Harris will assume the post of California's top law enforcement official, giving Democrats a clean sweep of the statewide offices.

Uncertainty had swirled around the election result since shortly after the votes began to be counted on Nov. 2. Cooley claimed victory on election night, only to discover the next morning that he was behind. As county registrars scrambled to count more than 2 million ballots left uncounted after election day, the lead bounced back and forth, but Harris has held an advantage for more than a week.

By Tuesday evening, Harris led Cooley by nearly 53,000 votes -- 4,385,438 to 4,332,596 -- according to a Times review of updated vote tallies in all 58 counties. The secretary of state's office reported that there were 154,806 ballots left uncounted statewide, though the actual number is most likely much less given the delay in some counties reporting their most recent figures to the state's election agency.

To win, Cooley would need more than two-thirds of those votes to overtake Harris. So far, the gap between the candidates has been less than a single percentage point. Moreover, about two-thirds of the remaining votes are in counties that Harris carried, including Contra Costa, Monterey and Sonoma.

[Updated at 11:28 a.m.: Cooley called Harris on Wednesday morning to congratulate her and concede the election, said his campaign consultant Kevin Spillane.

“Frankly the margin is just too great to be made up with the votes that remain to be counted,” Spillane said.

He said that a recount, which must be paid for by the requesting candidate under state law, would be expensive and would not likely make up enough votes to overcome Harris’ lead. “It would be overly divisive, and we’re not confident that it would reverse it ultimately,” Spillane said.]

-- Jack Leonard

Photo: Steve Cooley. Credit: Los Angeles Times