Democratic Party backs up Betty Yee in controller race recount

Democratic Party backs up Betty Yee in controller race recount
Betty Yee faces a recount challenge in the race for California controller. (California State Board of Equalization)

Controller candidate Betty Yee is getting new financial support from the California Democratic Party as she faces a recount challenge from Assemblyman John A. Pérez, her Democratic opponent in the primary.

The state party dropped $50,000 into Yee's account Friday, the campaign reported on Tuesday. The money will be used to cover legal costs stemming from the recount, said Parke Skelton, Yee's campaign consultant.

"It's a big help," Skelton said. "It sends an important message that the party leadership regards Betty Yee as their candidate for controller."

Pérez called for the recount after finishing 481 votes behind Yee in the primary. The two Democrats are vying to face off with Ashley Swearengin, the Republican mayor of Fresno, in the November general election.

The review began Friday and could last for weeks, but the California secretary of state has already certified the results. That means the state Democratic Party can move forward with endorsing Yee, a Board of Equalization member from the Bay Area, and providing her with campaign cash.

"We're supporting our endorsed candidate in accordance with the party's bylaws," said Tenoch Flores, a spokesman for the party. "That candidate is Betty Yee."

After two days of reviewing ballots in Kern and Imperial counties, Pérez has only picked up a handful of votes.

Nevertheless, Skelton said Yee's campaign is preparing to legally challenge the recount process if Pérez gains enough votes to overtake her. The system is inherently unfair and could fall short of federal equal protection guarantees, he said, because recounts don't need to include every county in the state, even if they involve a statewide race.

"How can that possibly be considered equal diligence?" Skelton said.

Follow @chrismegerian for more updates from Sacramento.