Second Spot Up for Grabs in East Bay Assembly Primary

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Jovanka Beckles (left) and Dan Kalb. (Courtesy of candidate campaigns)

Tuesday's primary was supposed to finally narrow down the enormous field of candidates in the East Bay's 15th State Assembly District from 12 to two.

But with hundreds of thousands of ballots still unprocessed in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, the second spot in the race is still up for grabs.

As of 6:00 p.m. Thursday, Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb currently sits in second, just 304 votes ahead of Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles. Democratic strategist Buffy Wicks led all candidates in the primary, with 31 percent of the vote.

Those totals could change as votes trickle in over the next days and possibly weeks.

On Thursday morning, Alameda County election officials said that 148,000 mail ballots have yet to be processed, along with 21,000 provisional ballots.

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Officials in Contra Costa County said that 80,000 ballots have yet to be counted: 70,000 from mailed ballots and 10,000 provisional votes.

State Assembly candidate Buffy Wicks after a campaign house party in Piedmont. (Guy Marzorati/KQED)

The huge number of returns still to come in Alameda County bodes well for Kalb, who represents North Oakland on the City Council. He leads Beckles 19 percent to 13 percent among Alameda County voters.

Wicks was able to pull away from the large field of candidates through an overwhelming fundraising advantage, endorsements from prominent Democrats, including Sen. Kamala Harris, and a tireless organizing push highlighted by 160 house parties up and down the district.

"I think that the breadth and depth of the organizing work that we have built across the district is reflected in the election results tonight," Wicks said in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Wicks was also the lone Democrat in the race who ventured away from the pack in her policy positions.

She advocated for reforms, but not a full repeal, of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which limits rent control in California cities. Both Beckles and Kalb support a repeal.

Wicks also expressed the most support for higher-density housing mandates expressed in Senate Bill 827 and did not back a statewide moratorium on new charter schools advocated by her Democratic opponents.

After Wicks' impressive showing at the polls, both Kalb and Beckles seemed to turn their focus to consolidating the support of the candidates finishing behind them in the primary.

"My effort is going to be to meet with them and invite them to continue the efforts in pursuing the values and priorities that they care about," Kalb said. "And to do that, if they’re interested, through my campaign."

In a statement issued on Thursday, Beckles seemed to echo the call for unity against Wicks in the general election.

"Dan Kalb has my highest respect and I’m sure that whether he or I prove to be the second-highest vote-getters in the next few weeks, the choice facing voters in the fall will be clear," she said.