Republican Bill Berryhill appears to have won a tight race over fellow Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani in the 5th Senate District, according to the vote count reported Wednesday morning.
Berryhill had 104,305 votes districtwide, or 51 percent, while his Democratic opponent had 100,317 votes, or 49 percent.
Galgiani held an edge among San Joaquin County voters. Berryhill had larger leads in the Stanislaus County portion, and in the sliver of the district in southern Sacramento County. There remain provisional and mail ballots to be counted, but it appears Berryhill has a commanding lead.
"We're cautiously optimistic, but there are still a lot of ballots to be counted," Berryhill said Tuesday night from his election night party at the Stockton Hilton. "I'd rather be where I am than where she's at."
Galgiani could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
The race drew statewide attention because a Democratic win could bring the party close to the two-thirds majority needed to pass tax increases and certain other measures without GOP votes.
Those stakes help explain the vigorous spending in the campaign $3.4 million by the candidates' committees as of Oct. 20, plus $2.4 million by independent committees as of Oct. 29.
Berryhill took the lead despite an edge in Democratic registration 42.5 percent to 37.5 percent as of Oct. 22.
Both candidates appealed to the sizable number of voters who stated no party preference, arguing that they would vote against their party's instructions if this would benefit the district.
Berryhill, a wine-grape grower originally from the Ceres area, portrayed himself as a problem-solving businessman who could better serve the district than Galgiani, who was a legislative staffer before her election to the Assembly.
Galgiani noted her success in bringing the first phase of high-speed rail to the brink of construction, which she said will be a major source of jobs. She also cited her early work on establishing the University of California at Merced and the recent launch of medical studies there.
Galgiani supported Proposition 30, a tax increase backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, because she said the state could not afford more cuts to education.
Berryhill opposed the tax measure. He said the state could best fund education and other needs by easing burdens on business, which would result in more jobs and tax revenue.
Berryhill said the rail project would fail to serve the main population centers and could need an operating subsidy that takes money from schools.
He slammed Galgiani for supporting the shift of some offenders from state to county supervision. She said the alternative would have been a federal order to ease prison crowding by releasing inmates.
Both candidates pledged to fight any water project that harms the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, especially a proposed tunnel around this maze of channels. Both said other storage and conveyance projects could meet the state's needs.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.