The race to represent Pleasanton in the State Assembly has narrowed to a 0.4% lead for Republican incumbent Catharine Baker as Democrat challenger Rebecca Bauer-Kahan has gained two percentage points since Election Night, as pending ballots continue to be processed in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
A lead that stood at 51.2% to 48.8% for Baker at the end of Election Night has dwindled as results have been updated in the ensuing days, and the incumbent's edge now sits at 50.2% to 49.8%, or just 627 votes (78,252 to 77,625), as of the latest totals posted to the California Secretary of State’s website on Sunday evening.
The results continue to fluctuate as election officials in both counties work to process remaining vote-by-mail, provisional and conditional ballots with the goal of completing their counts in the days ahead. Local results must be certified by Dec. 7.
“Margins always narrow as more ballots are counted, as they have here, and the Alameda County and the Contra Costa County Registrars are working hard to count ballots,” Baker told the Weekly over the weekend. “We’ll continue monitoring the count with both offices in the coming days and analyzing the outcome.”
Bauer-Kahan said Sunday, "While there are still tens of thousands of ballots left to be counted, we are incredibly encouraged by the results and current trends. Right now, our team is focused on ensuring that every vote is counted – and preventing any attempt to disrupt the counting and disenfranchise voters."
Election Night totals are considered unofficial as they include only early-arriving vote-by-mail ballots and counts reported by all precincts in the hours after polls closed on Tuesday. Assembly District 16 spans parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, encompassing the Tri-Valley and Lamorinda communities as well as a portion of Walnut Creek.
Contra Costa County Elections Division officials estimate there are about 82,000 vote-by-mail envelopes still to be tallied (those ballots just need to be postmarked by Election Day), as well as 25,000 provisionals and 1,000 conditional-voter registrations. They expect to announce their next results update this coming Friday afternoon.
The Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ Office said before the weekend that there were 200,000 eligible vote-by-mail ballots left to count, plus an unconfirmed number of provisional and conditional ballots. The office plans to update results each day until finalized.
Both counties note that the pending ballot totals are county-wide, as there’s no way to break it down by city or district at this point.
As results become clearer statewide, the Democrats appear to have already regained a supermajority in the Assembly, with 56 districts going to the Democrats and 20 set for the Republicans -- with four districts, including District 16, still too close to call.
Baker, a Republican attorney from Dublin, has served two terms in the Assembly, winning a tight election in 2014 and then retaining the key seat for the GOP in 2016.
Bauer-Kahan, an Orinda Democrat, is an attorney, law professor and married mother of school-age children who entered her first Assembly election with school volunteer and nonprofit service experience, but no elected or local government service time, trying to offer District 16 a new type of political voice in Sacramento.
That was markedly similar background to Baker’s in 2014 when the Republican attorney won her first-ever elected position by defeating union-backed Democrat and former Dublin mayor Tim Sbranti for the open Assembly seat after Democrat Joan Buchanan termed out.
This general election represented a rematch between the only two District 16 candidates on the primary election ballot. Baker finished ahead in June by 13.2%, but Bauer-Kahan has appeared buoyed by the “blue wave” anticipated at the polls in the required runoff this November.
During the campaign this fall, Baker tried to position herself as an independent voice who delivers results for the communities in her district and who is willing to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle to achieve key constituent priorities.
Bauer-Kahan presented herself as a Democrat who would always represent the voice of District 16 residents, compared to Baker’s record, especially on women’s rights, environmental protection and gun control.
The Baker campaign cited her voting history as progressive and bipartisan, while Bauer-Kahan backers argue the incumbent hadn't demonstrated enough consistency.