With potentially tens of thousands of ballots still left to count in state Senate District 13 race, early election results indicate that Democrat Josh Becker and Republican Alex Glew are leading in the seven-candidate contest.
As of the most recent results available the evening of Thursday, March 5, Josh Becker and Alex Glew held 21.3% and 20.6% of the votes counted respectively, or about 162,000, according to election results reported by the secretary of state.
Democratic candidates Sally Lieber and Shelly Masur currently have 16.2% and 15.2%, while Annie Oliva and Mike Brownrigg are at 12.6% and 11.8% respectively. John Webster, the sole Libertarian candidate, has about 2.3% of the vote.
This story will be updated as the two counties report additional election results.
In California, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, move forward to the November election.
The large number of viable Democratic contenders for the seat appears to have split the primary vote in a district that leans strongly blue. As of the most recent count in mid-February among registered voters in the district, 51.5% are Democrats, 14.9% Republican and 28.5% have no party preference.
Glew, a Los Altos resident, expressed surprise at being an early front-runner. In a March 3 phone call, he told the Voice that he was especially surprised at the outcome given how little his campaign spent, particularly compared with the Democratic candidates.
Among Democratic candidates, Becker raised the most at $1,063,936, followed by Brownrigg, who raised $947,931.
Masur raised $575,532; Oliva raised $438,613; and Lieber raised $255,920.
Glew's campaign, in contrast, raised $4,149.
"It's gratifying," he said. "The political machinery has a lot of influence on the elections."
He said he suspected his campaign resonated with voters because he represented a more moderate choice. "I think to the extent that candidates are moving farther to the left, that may be problematic to the people of California and their campaigns," he said.
Becker, a Menlo Park resident, said a lot more results still had to come in, and he was going to be keeping a close eye on them.
"I'm glad I'm doing well in San Mateo and Santa Clara County," he said, regarding his early lead as the Democratic front-runner. "It's better than a sharp stick in the eye."
Throughout his campaign, he said, he worked to distinguish himself from the other candidates on climate issues, housing, transportation, child care and education.
Next in the early rankings are Sally Lieber, from Mountain View, and Shelly Masur, from Redwood City. As of the afternoon of March 4, Lieber held a small lead over Becker as the top vote-getter in Santa Clara County, but ranked sixth in San Mateo County.
"It's been a great race," Lieber said in an interview. "I'm excited to see what the final totals are."
Among Democratic candidates, Lieber has been singled out as a target of attack ads by independent expenditure committees in the last few weeks. Four committees contributed a total of $431,724 opposing her campaign. The top two committees that campaigned against her election are "Keeping Californians Working," a group with funders such as Chevron and the California Apartment Association, which spent $132,663; and "Californians Allied for Patient Protection," which spent $116,563 against Lieber. In a written statement widely distributed by Lieber's campaign, she said that Californians Allied for Patient Protection launched the negative ads after she refused to sign a pledge to keep medical malpractice limits where they were in 1975.
She said she'd observed that the early March primary this year catching voters off-guard, combined with the voter population's strong education credentials, likely led many people to hold onto their ballots in the days leading up to Super Tuesday.
"This is a wonky district where people do game out the math of when and who they should give their vote to," she said.
Mike Brownrigg, from Burlingame, said he too observed many voters still making up their minds in the weekend leading up to Super Tuesday.
"The early numbers don't rattle my faith in the strength of the campaign we ran," he said. "Early results came in before endorsements were even made. I think things have changed a lot over the last few weeks."
He said he felt that in his campaigning there wasn't anything specific about his message – focused on affordability, climate and education – that didn't resonate with voters. The larger challenge was making "100,000 new friends," he said.
Oliva, a Democrat from Millbrae, declined to comment, and Masur could not be reached for comment. In a voicemail, Webster said that he opposed California's top two system and believes there will be two Democrats facing off in the November elections. "Guess what?" he said. "I could care less which one of those top two gets elected because they're screwing with the whole concept of freedom that our country is supposed to be about."
It's still early
While these results represent the votes of nearly a quarter of San Mateo County's registered voters and nearly 20% of Santa Clara County's, there are still many ballots yet to be counted.
The votes that have been reported in San Mateo County represent ballots received in the mail and returned at vote centers and drop boxes by the Saturday before Super Tuesday, and an initial round of ballots submitted at vote centers. Results will be updated each half-hour.
In Santa Clara County, vote tallies posted just after 8 p.m. March 3 represent those received early by mail. Updates that are released afterward represent reports from the county's vote centers.
Vote-by-mail ballots that arrive on the day of the election or are postmarked on Election Day, provisional ballots, damaged or unreadable ballots, or write-in votes are all processed and counted after Election Day.
It's also still not yet known how many registered voters have submitted a ballot. In a comparable election to this year's – the June 2016 primaries – 51.8% of registered voters in San Mateo County and 54.7% of registered voters in Santa Clara County ended up casting ballots.
All-mail elections tend to increase voter turnout. In the 2018 general election, voter turnout in San Mateo County rose to 72.6% of registered voters. However, it took nearly a month to call some races due to mail-in ballots submitted on Election Day or received by mail afterward, particularly for close elections at the city level.
The San Mateo County Elections Office has since acquired new technology that allows ballots to be processed and counted much more efficiently, which was put to the test in 2019, according to Jim Irizarry, chief elections officer for San Mateo County. The county has two new scanners that can each scan 18,000 ballots an hour, he said in an email.
Since switching to all-mail elections, he said, many mailed ballots have arrived on Election Day or afterwards, in some cases more than 40%.
"While we prioritize accuracy over speed, I do believe we will be providing voters with results much faster than in 2018 or 2019," he said.