Richmond councilwoman Jovanka Beckles will face political strategist Buffy Wicks in the general election for the 15th Assembly District, a matchup set up after a roller-coaster week of ballot returns.
Wicks won the primary handily, with over 31 percent of the vote. But Beckles and Oakland councilman Dan Kalb finished neck and neck in the race for second, with the candidates swinging between second and third multiple times as the results came in from Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
Kalb told KQED that he called Wicks and Beckles on Thursday morning to concede the race, with no votes left to count in his home county of Alameda.
"Obviously, I'm very disappointed," Kalb said.
He said he would be meeting with Beckles and Wicks in the coming weeks before making a decision to endorse either candidate.
In a statement, Wicks congratulated Beckles and the 10 other candidates who ran in one of the state's most crowded primaries.
"I look forward to a constructive and healthy debate on the issues," said Wicks, who lives in Oakland. "It was often observed that there was an embarrassment of riches when it came to folks running for this seat. That's an understatement."
Wicks entered this race as the only front-runner not in public office. But she was able to separate herself from the field by building up an enormous fundraising haul and maintaining a vigorous organizing presence throughout the district, which stretches from North Oakland to Hercules.
Wicks' grass-roots efforts were best exemplified in the house parties she held across the area. On Election Day she captured more votes than anyone else in both Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
Beckles relied on a network of small-donor support, with the backing of Our Revolution, the group formed in the wake of Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign. She is a member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, a group that has won a number of recent local elections with a "corporate money free" message.
Earlier in the week, Beckles said she would relish the opportunity to face Wicks in November.
"We're so different in so many ways," said Beckles, who added that the primary showed the need for public financing of campaigns. "If she didn't have all this money, I really believe that we wouldn't see her with such a large lead."
With such a crowded field, candidates in the primary often seemed more concerned with turning out their supporters than drawing distinctions among themselves on policy positions.
That could change as the field now narrows to two candidates, with Wicks and Beckles differing over their approach to rent control, housing development and charter schools.
The race could also echo the divisions between national Democrats. Wicks ran Hillary Clinton's 2016 primary campaign in California, while Beckles' involvement with Our Revolution ties her closely to Bernie Sanders.