CITYWIDE — The race to represent Santa Monica in the 50th Assembly District was too close to call Wednesday as Mayor Richard Bloom was leading Assemblywoman Betsy Butler by a mere 218 votes out of more than 138,000 votes counted so far.
Officials with the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office said 100 percent of the voting precincts reported in, but provisional and vote-by-mail ballots still must be counted. It is believed that there are tens of thousands of votes still to be tallied.
Final results are not expected until Friday afternoon, election officials said. They legally have until Dec. 4 to finish processing ballots and until Dec. 7 to report their certified vote counts to the Secretary of State.
“California has more registered voters than any other state in the nation. It’s understandable some people want election returns immediately, but it’s more important than ever to get results right rather than get results fast,” said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, California’s chief elections official. “Voting by mail has increased significantly in recent years and with many people returning vote-by-mail ballots on Election Day, county elections officials need the full month to finish their important work.”
That leaves Bloom and Butler, both Democrats, waiting anxiously to learn if they will have a job in Sacramento.
The two have been in this spot before, with Butler winning the June 5 open primary by just 137 votes. In an open primary, the two candidates to receive the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, compete in a run-off, which is why there are two Democrats battling it out.
As of presstime Wednesday, the results for the 50th District were Bloom with 69,280 votes, or 50.1 percent, and Butler with 69,062 or 49.9 percent.
The campaigns were contentious, with both sides trading barbs in the final weeks. Butler, who was supported by the California Democratic Party and spent roughly $1.4 million on her campaign, painted herself as an environmental activist who has had success in her first term in the Assembly, helping to ban dangerous plastics in baby bottles.
Bloom, who spent roughly $596,000, relied heavily on his record in Santa Monica, where he and his colleagues on the City Council dais kept Santa Monica’s credit rating high while funding education and social services. The family-law attorney pledged to help end the gridlock in the state Legislature.
Bloom was helped by an independent expenditure campaign funded by agricultural special interests opposed to Butler’s efforts to protect farm workers. The independent campaign led by Family Farmers Working for a Better California, which spent more than $300,000, sent mailers criticizing Butler’s decision to vote against a bill that would have made it easier to fire teachers, saying she was protecting child molesters. Butler said the bill would have done nothing to protect children from predators and instead would have stripped away protections for hard-working teachers.
Butler supporters, consisting mainly of public employees, consumer attorneys and conservationists, targeted Bloom’s voting record on the City Council, saying he was in the pocket of developers and other special interest groups and failed to represent Santa Monicans and protect the environment while serving on the Coastal Commission. The independent committees spent roughly $351,000 targeting Bloom, according to campaign finance reports provided by the Secretary of State’s Office.
Brian Ross Adams, Bloom’s campaign manager, said the candidate was “trying to get some badly needed rest” Wednesday after a long night of watching election results trickle in.
“Votes will be counted for the next two weeks and he, along with many others, will follow the count closely and optimistically,” Adams said of Bloom.
Butler said the results so far are not surprising given the close contest during the primary.
“It’s a new era,” she said of the open primary system and its impacts. “When you have the top two candidates and both are Democrats in a heavily Democratic district these things are going to happen.”
Butler plans to spend the next few days thanking her supporters and monitoring the election results.
“I’ve been through tough campaigns before,” she said. “We’ll just have to see how it turns out.”
District 50 encompasses Santa Monica, Malibu, Brentwood, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Carthay Square, West Hollywood, much of Hollywood, Hancock Park, Miracle Mile, as well as Pacific Palisades, Topanga, part of the Santa Monica Mountains and Agoura Hills.