Correction: This article has been updated to correct an error in voting percentages in the Assembly race.
Update Thursday 11:45 a.m.: The Santa Barbara County Clerk’s Office said Thursday morning that it had a total of 34,000 ballots still to be processed, including approximately 27,000 vote-by-mail ballots and about 7,000 provisional ballots.
Original Story: With just 2,357 votes separating them, neither Justin Fareed nor Katcho Achadjian were prepared to claim victory or concede defeat for runner-up in the hotly contested race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Lois Capps in Congress’ 24th District.
Whoever ultimately prevails will face the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s primary, Democratic candidate Salud Carbajal, in a runoff in the Nov. 8 general election.
The San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara county clerk’s offices said Wednesday that updated election results won’t be available until Friday. Both offices are still verifying thousands of provisional ballots, and mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day can still be counted if they are received by Friday. In SLO County, nearly 28,000 provisional and mail-in ballots had not yet been counted on Wednesday.
In Tuesday’s “top two” open primary election, Carbajal sprung to an early lead among the nine candidates, and held on to that lead as results trickled in throughout the night. With early mail-in ballots and returns from all 369 precincts counted, Carbajal was the safe frontrunner with 32.7 percent of the vote.
Fareed ended the night with 20.5 percent of the vote, while Achadjian received 18.9 percent after all precincts were reported.
On Wednesday, Fareed spent the day returning a long list of about 200 emails and 50 text messages from supporters and conducting media interviews. Achadjian, a state assemblyman, was on the road back to Sacramento to prepare for Thursday’s legislative session.
Fareed said he was “humbled and blessed” by the voter turnout and the help from his campaign’s volunteers.
It’s going to take a real effort of not only me but all my supporters to raise the capital needed to be competitive in this race.
Republican congressional candidate Justin Fareed
Asked how he planned to move forward toward November — should his current lead hold steady — Fareed said he will continue to speak to voters in the district and “ask every single person in the campaign, their family members, their neighbors, their colleagues to get out and vote.”
Carbajal and Fareed were the top two fundraisers in the campaign, with Democratic political action committees donating to Carbajal while Republican PACs and the medical industry gave to Fareed’s camp.
“It’s going to take a real effort of not only me but all my supporters to raise the capital needed to be competitive in this race,” Fareed said. “Lois Capps and the Democrats said from the very beginning of this race their most important priority is to keep this seat blue.”
Achadjian said Wednesday that he felt “very good” about his campaign, which contrasted with those of Fareed and Carbajal by not directly targeting his opponents.
“As a whole, I’m feeling very good that we didn’t take part in the negativity, that we kept our principles in place,” Achadjian said, noting he wished he had more time to spend canvassing the district outside of his Assembly duties. “Politics is a full-time job. Whatever (the outcome), it’s the people’s choice and I’m going to accept that.”
Achadjian added that, should the yet-to-be-counted ballots not push him ahead of Fareed, he looks forward to spending more time with his gas station business and getting back involved in smaller local community organizations.
In the past, I’ve learned not to say ‘never.’ I used to say I’d never be in politics, and here I am.
Republican congressional candidate Katcho Achadjian
He would not discount another congressional run.
“In the past, I’ve learned not to say ‘never,’ ” he added. “I used to say I’d never be in politics, and here I am.”
On Tuesday night, Carbajal told The Tribune that he was grateful for the support he received and was eager to “continue the conversation” leading up to the Nov. 8 general election. Asked about his chief Democratic rival, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider — who conceded earlier in the evening — Carbajal said he respects the fight she put up throughout the race.
“I’ve appreciated Mayor Schneider’s campaign,” said Carbajal, a Santa Barbara County supervisor. “One of the great things about democracy is it allows us to engage in conversations and debate about our ideas. I think I’m a better candidate because she was in the race.”
With all 215 precincts reporting in the “top-two” race for Achadjian’s 35th Assembly District seat, Democratic candidate Dawn Ortiz-Legg held a commanding lead against Republican Jordan Cunningham at 44.9 to 37.3 percent. Santa Maria Republican Steve LeBard followed with 14.8 percent, and Libertarian Dominic Rubini gathered just 3 percent.
It’s nice to break that barrier that’s been here a number of years with Republican representatives in this district.
Democratic Assembly candidate Dawn Ortiz-Legg
Ortiz-Legg said Wednesday as she was on her way to speak to young entrepreneurs at Cal Poly that she was humbled by the turnout and was looking forward to spreading her socially progressive and pro-business message.
“It’s nice to break that barrier that’s been here a number of years with Republican representatives in this district,” she said. “This isn’t a conventional election year, and I’m not a conventional Democrat.”
Ortiz-Legg attributed her success to offering a positive message and said she would head into the November election canvassing district communities, talking about her qualifications and urging Democrats to get out the vote in a controversial presidential election year. Ortiz-Legg pointed out that Democratic voter registration has surged, closing the gap between Democrats and Republicans from about 5.2 percent to about 3.4 percent in the past two years.
“It’s going to be a lot of hard work,” she said.
Cunningham, 38, owns the Cunningham Law Group in Templeton and sits on the Templeton Unified School District Board of Trustees. The California Republican Party-backed former San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office prosecutor has won key endorsements from law enforcement organizations such as the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the California State Sheriff’s Association, and as the president of the Central Coast Taxpayers Association, he’s received a nod from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California Small Business Association.
I believe this district still wants a fiscally conservative problem-solver as their representative, but I know (the race will) be heavily contested in the fall.
Republican Assembly candidate Jordan Cunningham
Cunningham said he felt good about his performance in the primary and moving on to the November ballot. He said that, despite his strong showing, he likely split Republican votes to a degree with LeBard, and wants to unify conservatives around his runoff campaign.
Cunningham said that despite his strong backing from conservative groups, his campaign champions issues important to both political parties, such as his call for higher education reform and long-term drought solutions, such as desalination.
“I’m very committed to education, and I’ve been looking hard at the cost of public universities in California that has been skyrocketing, not in the classroom but skyrocketing toward the bureaucracy,” Cunningham said. “It’s about accountability, and I’ve been doing that for small business owners and working class families for years.”
He said he also looks forward to the campaign and drawing distinctions between himself and his opponent.
“Dawn and I are, creatively, very different in how we approach things,” he said. “I believe this district still wants a fiscally conservative problem-solver as their representative, but I know (the race will) be heavily contested in the fall.”
As the only two candidates running for the 17th District state Senate seat, incumbent Democrat Bill Monning, 65, of Carmel and Republican challenger Palmer Kain, 37, of Aptos automatically advance to the Nov. 8 general election.
But Tuesday’s unofficial primary results showed Monning with a commanding 68.2 percent of the mail-in and cast ballots to Kain’s 31.8 percent, according to the California Secretary of State.
Monning, a former lawyer and educator, is running for his second term in the state Senate.
Kain, an e-commerce manager and U.S. Army veteran, ran unsuccessfully for the state’s 29th Assembly District seat in 2014.
The 17th Senate District includes all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz counties, as well as portions of Monterey and Santa Clara counties.
U.S. House District 24 unofficial final results*
SLO COUNTY RESULTS
100 percent of precincts reporting. *The race featured nine candidates on the ballot; these are the top six vote-getters.