Prop. 29 backers hold out hope as gap narrows

Proponents of the tobacco tax initiative on Tuesday’s state ballot, Proposition 29, refused to concede defeat Thursday as election officials continued to count ballots and the gap narrowed.

The measure was losing by just under 53,000 votes as updated tallies continued to trickle in from county elections offices. On election night, that number was 63,000.

More than a dozen congressional and Assembly contests remained undecided Thursday as well. In many of those races, it was unclear who would get the second spot on the November ballot. Under the state’s new “top two” primary system, the first and second finishers, regardless of party, advance to the fall election.

The secretary of state’s office released a partial estimate of the number of uncounted ballots Thursday afternoon — 830,000 — but that did not include outstanding ballots in more than half of California’s 58 counties.

Among those not included were Orange, Kern and Santa Clara counties. There were 176,000 ballots left to be counted in Los Angeles County, which was included in the state estimate.

Steve Smith, a political consultant for the campaign for Proposition 29, said his side believes there are more than 1 million ballots outstanding. Just under 4 million ballots cast in the primary election have been tallied, state election records show.”

“We’re talking about 20% of the overall vote essentially not being counted yet,” Smith said. “The election almost certainly is going to get narrower.”

A spokeswoman for the opposing campaign, Beth Miller, said her side does not anticipate “a big vote swing one way or another. But obviously we are watching it closely.”

The uncounted ballots consist of many cast by mail, as well as provisional and damaged ones.