California Secretary of State Debra Bowen conceded Thursday in the special election race for a vacant Southern California congressional seat, handing a surprising second-place finish to little-known Republican Craig Huey. Huey, a wealthy advertising executive who spent $500,000 out of his own pocket, will face Democratic Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn in a July 12 runoff.
Bowen, also a Democrat, finished about 200 votes behind Huey in Tuesday’s primary but was waiting on around 10,000 absentee and provisional ballots that had yet to be counted. On Thursday afternoon, as election officials sorted through the remaining votes, Huey’s lead grew to 750 ballots.
“Since Tuesday’s election, my staff, legal advisers and election experts participated in the ballot review process to ensure a full and fair vote count was conducted. It is clear now that I will not be in the runoff and I congratulate Janice Hahn and Craig Huey,” Bowen said in a statement.
The race is the first to take place under California’s new “jungle primary” system, in which the top two finishing candidates in an open field advance to a runoff.
Bowen did not endorse Hahn in her Thursday evening concession, citing a “strict policy of not endorsing candidates to avoid even a perception of conflict” given her role as the state’s top elections officer.