See precinct by precinct election results for the Assembly race on our interactive map
Palo Alto Councilman Marc Berman cruised to a first-place finish in the race to succeed Rich Gordon in the 24th Assembly District, while attorney Vicki Veenker was holding on to a slim edge over Menlo Park Councilman Peter Ohtaki for second place early Wednesday morning, according to the Santa Clara and San Mateo County registrars.
The contest between Veenker and Ohtaki were in a virtual dead heat when results from the mail-in ballots were released at 8 p.m., with each winning about 20 percent of the vote in the two counties, well behind Berman's 28 percent. While Berman retained his significant edge at the front of the pack as the ballots were tallied, Veenker and Ohtaki remained neck-and-neck throughout the night, with Veenker gradually expanding her narrow lead as more ballots were counted.
As of 1 a.m., Veenker had received 670 more votes that Ohtaki, with most precincts counted in both counties. By the time all precincts were counted in both counties Wednesday morning, her lead had expanded to 1,223 votes.
Trailing them in the field were Mountain View Councilman Mike Kasperzak, who received 11.3 percent, and Cupertino Mayor Barry Chang, who received 10.7 percent.
Also in the race were Mountain View Councilman John Inks, who received 4 percent; and Palo Alto residents Sea Reddy and Jay Cabrera, who each received 2 percent.
For Berman, the election was a drama-free affair, as early results showed him enjoying a sizable lead over the his seven opponents. With 40 percent of the precincts counted and his support level at 28 percent, Berman told the Weekly he is feeling optimistic.
"It's a good start," Berman said during his campaign party at the Palo Alto Art Center, where he was surrounded by a few dozen friends and supporters. "I'm fairly confident that we're moving on to November."
While Berman and Veenker, both Palo Alto residents, were the top vote-getters in Santa Clara County, Ohtaki did well in his San Mateo County, which has about 30 percent of the district's votes. With 104 of 109 precincts counted, Ohtaki had received support from 26.4 percent of his home county, trailing only Berman (31.2 percent) and well ahead of Veenker (19.8 percent). With all precincts counted early Wednesday, Ohtaki had received 4,090 votes to Veenker's 3,074.
Veenker made up for it in Santa Clara County, where she held a consistent second-place position throughout election night and where she led Ohtaki 12,220 votes to 9,981, with all precincts reporting.
She also benefited greatly from San Mateo County voters who cast their ballots on Election Day. While Ohtaki held a large advantage over Veenker in mail-in ballots in San Mateo County (2,700 to 1,569), more people who went to the polls in the county on Tuesday voted for Veenker than for Ohtaki (1,451 to 1,350).
Though by 9:30 p.m. the race for second place was too close to call, Veenker said she was feeling optimistic as she addressed a crowd of supporters at the Mitchell Park Community Center.
"We have gotten our message out about how to build a brighter future, how to bring a fresh perspective to Sacramento and how we can work together to get it done," she told the crowd.
Her lead grew in next few hours -- going from 385 votes at 11 to 464 votes by midnight (when 84 out of 109 precincts in San Mateo County and 156 out of 166 precincts in Santa Clara County were reporting). It then continued to grow as the count progressed throughout the night.
During her campaign party, Veenker said she is very proud of her campaign and thankful for her volunteers who helped her.
"I'm hopeful and time will tell," she said.
Ohtaki, the lone Republican candidate in the heavily Democratic district, spent his election night at Menlo Park City Hall, where the City Council was reviewing the budget for the coming fiscal year. He told the Almanac the he was "very pleased" with the early results, "given that my budget was a fraction of the other candidates."
Ohtaki, who was one of the last candidates to join the race, raised about $25,000 for his bid, less than 10 percent of what was raised and spent by his two main rivals in the race for a November showdown.
In addition to the financial disadvantage, Ohtaki noted that the Republican turnout was probably lower than it would have been if there had been competition for the party's presidential nominee. Conversely, the Democratic turnout was probably stronger because of the contest between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
Ohtaki said he had expected the race to be tight between himself and Veenker, based on his own spreadsheet modeling.
"I can't afford to do any polling," he said.
Instead of having an election party, he planned to celebrate his wife's and daughter's birthday after the council meeting.
Other candidate were less sanguine about the election results. Kasperzak and Inks both recognized fairly early Tuesday night that things aren't going in their favor.
"Well, let the chips fall where they may," Kasperzak told the Mountain View Voice. "My congratulations to Marc Berman, if he is the nominee, and whoever else joins him."
Inks, the lone Libertarian in the race, observed the race result was roughly on par with typical performances by third-party candidates.
"That's pretty much rock bottom," Inks said, looking at the results. "I wouldn't have been surprised by anything with how this race could have turned out."
The two top vote-winners will head into the Nov. 8 general election to square off for Gordon's seat in the district, which includes Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Sunnyvale, a part of Cupertino and the San Mateo County coastside -- from El Granada to the Santa Cruz County border.
Mountain View Voice Staff Writer Mark Noack and Almanac Staff Writer Kate Bradshaw contributed to this report.