Although the vote count switched back and forth during the evening, by Wednesday morning with all precincts counted McNerney led by only 121 votes, a number considered too close to call. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of absentee ballots remained to be counted by the voter registrars, which will likely decide the outcome.
As of Wednesday morning, voters in the 11th Congressional District gave McNerney 82,124 votes against Harmer's 82,003 votes. At that time, both had a statistically adjusted 47.5% of the total votes cast in the 11th District race.
David Christensen, an American Independent candidate, received 8,809 votes, or 5%.
With Harmer taking an early lead after absentee votes were tallied and first announced, McNerney made a brief appearance at his election night rally at the Sheraton Four Points hotel in Pleasanton. He then left, saying he would return once the results were final.
Supporters took advantage of the free food and refreshments, milling around until 10:30 p.m. before starting to drift away. Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who had come to congratulate McNerney, left then, too.
The continuing uncertainty over who will represent the 11th District baffled many of McNerney's supporters who watched results on a television monitor showing a Democratic sweep in other California races. Democrat John Garamendi easily won re-election the nearby 10th Congressional District with 58% of the vote against 38.5% for his Republican challenger Gary Clift.
In the 13th Congressional District, which includes the far northwest side of Pleasanton, veteran Congressman Pete Stark (D-Fremont) received 86,660 votes, or 72% of the total votes cast in that election against Republican challenger Forest Baker's 34,469 votes, or 28%.
To strengthen his odds when he voted Tuesday, McNerney brought along his wife Mary and their children Greg, Michael and Windy to the Donlon Elementary School polling place in Pleasanton, near the McNerney Val Vista neighborhood home and where the children were raised.
McNerney said he isn't due back in Washington until the first week in December, when the current Congress reconvenes.