State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and three campaign consultants stood huddled around a laptop in a hotel ballroom in Universal City, hitting refresh.
When the first batch of results in Tuesday's primary election were reported, Padilla smiled. With 10% of precincts reporting, he was in second place in the race to replace outgoing Secretary of State Debra Bowen.
Republican Pete Peterson was in first place.
In contests for statewide office, candidates who finish first and second — regardless of party — will compete in a November runoff.
"We're off to a good start," Padilla said.
He was one of several elected officials ringing in election night at a watch party hosted by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party at the Sheraton Universal in Universal City.
While several dozen party loyalists sipped cocktails and snacked on fruit and cheese, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) rallied the crowd. Sherman said he was buyoed by early vote returns.
"In one close congressional race after the other," he said, "the Democrat is doing better than expected."