Democrat Cathleen Galgiani pulled ahead of Republican Bill Berryhill in the 5th Senate District race Wednesday, election officials reported.
The updated tallies also show tightening battles for Riverbank mayor and Patterson City Council.
Galgiani had 140,192 votes to 138,081 for Berryhill, her first lead since the vote counting started on election night, 16 days ago.
"I'm hopeful, but I want to see the absolutely final counts," Galgiani said Wednesday. Berryhill couldn't be reached for comment.
About 1,600 ballots remained to be processed in San Joaquin County, home to about 70 percent of the 5th District voters. About 3,500 await in Stanislaus County, where 27 percent of the voters live. The rest are in a small slice of Sacramento County.
In Riverbank, Councilman Richard O'Brien holds a 65-vote lead over incumbent Virginia Madueño in the mayor's race, down from 136 in the previous count Nov. 9. O'Brien has 3,076 votes to Madueño's 3,011.
Such drama is nothing new for these candidates, who are in a rematch for mayor. In 2009, the election night tally put O'Brien in the lead, but Madueño won on the strength of ballots counted in the ensuing days.
Incumbent Jeanine Tucker continued to lead the race for two seats on the Riverbank City Council. She has 1,936 votes to 1,885 for Darlene Barber-Martinez and 1,755 for Cal Campbell.
As of the Nov. 9 count, Tucker had 1,878 votes, Barber-Martinez 1,769 and Campbell 1,685.
In the contest for two Patterson council seats, incumbent Dominic Farinha leads with 1,709 votes, while Dennis McCord has 1,625 and Sheree Lustgarten 1,617.
The eight-vote gap between McCord and Lustgarten is down from 20 in the previous tally.
The race between Galgiani and Berryhill, who both serve in the Assembly, has been one of the most vigorous in California this year. It no longer will determine whether Democrats will achieve a two-thirds majority — something they have already accomplished in both the Senate and Assembly based on other races.
Galgiani moved ahead thanks mainly to San Joaquin County. She extended her lead there over Berryhill to 7,128 votes, compared with 4,115 last week.
In Stanislaus County, Galgiani trimmed Berryhill's lead to 3,947 votes, down from 4,552 as of Nov. 9.
Berryhill still leads in Sacramento County. It has yet to count about 27,000 ballots, the vast majority of them outside the 5th District.
Election workers will be off until Monday, when new numbers might be released. The results must be certified by Dec. 4.
Losers of close elections can request recounts and must pay the cost if the results do not change in their favor, said Lee Lundrigan, clerk-recorder for Stanislaus County.
Candidates can choose whether to have a hand or computer recount. A computer recount is $300 per hour. A hand count is $625 per day per electoral board, which counts the ballot. The election office decides how many electoral boards will be needed for a particular recount.
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