Salas clings to 48-vote lead over Vargas


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The count in California’s most competitive state Senate primary has tightened to a 48-vote margin, and the race could be heading to a recount.

The race between Democrats Juan Vargas and Assemblywoman Mary Salas pitted business groups, who stood with Vargas, against law enforcement, union and tribal groups allied with Salas. Spending from interest groups in the race topped $2.5 million. Salas was backed by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who marshaled staff resources to aid the Salas campaign, and some viewed the race as a test of his leadership.


The 40th Senate District includes parts of Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties. With late votes from all three counties in, Salas holds a 48-vote lead over Vargas, down from 252 votes earlier this week.

Election officials in Imperial County said there are 31 ballots left to count there. That tally should be done Thursday afternoon. Vargas has been steadily gaining in all three counties in the late tallies, but Imperial was where he performed best.

Under state law, any individual can request a recount of the ballots in a race, but he or she must be willing to pay for the extra work from county elections officials.

A spokesman for the Civil Justice Assn. of California, which spent more than $1.5 million on Vargas’ behalf, did not immediately return calls seeking comment about a possible recount.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento