New vote tallies are expected Friday evening from election offices in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, and they could provide new insight in the cliffhanger race between Republican Rep. Jeff Denham and Democratic challenger Josh Harder, as well as other close contests.
About 80,000 ballots could not be counted Tuesday in Stanislaus County, and nearly 92,000 in San Joaquin County. Roughly 100,000 of those ballots to be processed are from District 10, which includes only the south part of San Joaquin County.
Most of the uncounted votes are mail ballots — 67,000 in Stanislaus and 71,000 in San Joaquin — turned in at polls or arriving in the mail since. They are easier to process than provisional and conditional ballots, so people may get a better sense of ultimate outcomes in some races as soon as Friday night.
But neck-and-neck contests could wait weeks to resolve. And that can be nerve-wracking for voters, not to mention candidates.
“You’re in limbo, complete and absolute limbo, and frankly, it’s panic time,” said Janice Keating. Twelve years ago, the former Modesto councilwoman trailed Dick Monteith in a race for Stanislaus supervisor by 111 votes on election night, then led Monteith by 26 votes in an updated count a week later before ultimately losing by 26 votes in the final count.
This year, the Denham-Harder race has generated intrigue from sea to shining sea, as Democrats looked to retake control of the House. They did, because of wins elsewhere, but plenty of people here still want to know who will be their Washington, D.C., representative to vote on issues ranging from immigration and health care to taxes and water.
It’s not known how many of San Joaquin’s 91,770 outstanding ballots were cast in the 10th District, which includes Manteca, Tracy, Escalon and Ripon as well as all of Stanislaus County.
As of early Wednesday, Denham held a 1,287-vote lead, representing 50.6 percent of the vote. But with as many votes yet to process as were counted Tuesday, the outcome is anyone’s guess.
Traditionally, late voters tend to favor Democratic candidates. For example, then-Assemblyman Bill Berryhill of Ceres, a Republican, held 51 percent of the vote on election night when running for a Senate seat against fellow Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani in 2012, but after tallying late votes 16 days later, Galgiani, a Democrat, sprung ahead and ultimately won.
However, it’s impossible to know how many die-hard Republicans were motivated by the last-minute campaigning of President Donald Trump. And conservatives are more likely to vote by mail — the category comprising the bulk of the ballots yet to be counted here.
There are several potentially close local races throughout Stanislaus County.
Incumbent Terry Withrow had a 1,048 vote lead over Modesto Councilman Tony Madrigal in the election for District 3 on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. That’s out of 12,368 votes. “I have no idea,” Withrow said Thursday when asked whether his lead would hold up. “We have a lot of votes still to count so we will see.”
District 3 includes Salida, Wood Colony and Modesto’s west side. Madrigal, who was elected to his second term on the City Council a year ago, did not respond to a request for comment.
In the race for District 4 supervisor, State Sen. Tom Berryhill (Bill’s brother) had a 1,142 vote lead over Frank Damrell out of 17,048 votes. The district includes most of Modesto, Del Rio and a small part of Ceres. District 4 Supervisor Dick Monteith did not run for re-election. Berryhill is terming out of the state Senate.
“I’ve been hearing there is an opportunity, that there is a chance for me to win yet and not to despair,” Damrell said Thursday. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Berryhill said: “I think so,” when asked whether his lead would hold up. “We are positively optimistic. We Berryhills have been notorious for close campaigns, and this one is close.”
And in Turlock, Councilwoman Amy Bublak had a 678-vote lead over former Mayor Brad Bates to become Turlock’s next mayor. Gary Soiseth, the current mayor, was in third place, trailing Bublak by 996 votes. There were 11,463 votes cast in the race.
Bublak declared victory on Facebook on Wednesday and thanked the community for placing its faith in her.
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Soiseth on Facebook expressed gratitude to his family, friends and supporters and his pride in what has been accomplished during his tenure and for the positive campaign he and his supporters waged.
Bates, who served as mayor from 1982-1990, is taking a wait-and-see attitude. “I’m not conceding,” he said, “but on the other hand, I haven’t rushed out to order business cards either. ... I’m just patiently waiting.”
There also are close races for City Council in Newman, Turlock, Patterson and Riverbank as well as for one of the seats on the Yosemite Community College District Board of Trustees.
Withrow, who is a CPA and seeking his third term on the Board of Supervisors, said he was surprised by the level of partisanship in his race. Withrow is a Republican and Madrigal is a Democrat and while the position of supervisor is nonpartisan, partisan politics play a role in local nonpartisan races.
“There was a big push at the end,” Withrow said. “It was supposed to be a nonpartisan race, but it felt like me against an army. All I know is that when I was out walking, it was one of me and six Harder people out walking.”
“The county, we get so much done because we don’t play partisan politics,” Withrow said. ”If I lose because of partisan politics then that is disappointing.”
But there was partisanship on the Republican side as well. The Denham campaign sent out a last-minute campaign flier supporting Withrow. “Terry’s record of service is impressive,” the mailer quoted Denham as saying.
If all 80,000 outstanding Stanislaus votes prove legitimate, the county’s turnout could top 64 percent. By comparison, midterm turnout here four years ago was 43.3 percent.
“That (64 percent) would be enormous,” said Mike Lynch, a Turlock-based political consultant and chief of staff for former Rep. Gary Condit of Ceres. “I’ve never seen an election where both sides were so agitated and angry.”