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No cigar--for now 

So close, yet so far away—for now, it seems. Confused? So are the results of the June 22 special primary election for Senate District 15.

As of press time, San Luis Obispo Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee had garnered the most votes in the district—which spans SLO, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Monterey, and Santa Cruz counties—but not enough to avoid an Aug. 17 runoff. Though, with thousands of uncounted ballots and a paper-thin margin between Blakeslee and a win, the results were far from final.

According to the California Secretary of State, Blakeslee had 49.7 percent of the vote (the election results hadn’t been certified as of press time). If any one candidate wins 50 percent plus one vote, they will win outright and avoid a runoff, which would include all four candidates: Blakeslee, John Laird, Jim Fitzgerald, and Mark Hinkle.

If Laird, the Democratic candidate, had won the primary, it would put Senate Democrats just one vote shy of a two-thirds majority in Sacramento.

However, SLO County Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald told New Times local election officials had nearly 6,000 vote-by-mail and provisional ballots left to count. She added that other counties in the district had an estimated 11,000 additional uncounted ballots.

The Secretary of State reported 130,009 votes, as of press time. A spokesperson from Blakeslee’s office noted that the uncounted ballots across the district could push Blakeslee above the 50 percent threshold.

Laird received about 41 percent of the vote. Fitzgerald, a Nipomo independent, received about 6 percent of the vote; Hinkle, the Bay Area Libertarian, received about 3 percent.

In SLO County, 34 percent of the 154,702 registered voters cast a ballot. Rodewald said the turnout was below her expectations, “But all you can do is offer the opportunity.”

The primary is estimated to cost the county about $500,000. If the election does, in fact, go to an August runoff, the total cost is estimated at about $1 million.

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