Democrat challenger Rebecca Bauer-Kahan continues to close the gap on Republican Assemblywoman Catharine Baker in the race to represent Pleasanton and the rest of State Assembly District 16, with the incumbent's lead narrowed to 159 votes as of the latest update Thursday afternoon.
Baker, a second-term incumbent from Dublin, held an early 2.4% edge at the end of Election Night, but that margin has dwindled as more vote-by-mail and provisional ballots have been counted. Now the tally sits at 50.05% for Baker and 49.95% for Bauer-Kahan , according to totals posted to the California Secretary of State's website Thursday.
Bauer-Kahan, a political newcomer and attorney from Orinda, has gained ground each day the ballot results have been updated by Alameda and Contra Costa counties' election officials -- and significant strides compared to the June primary election, when she finished 13.2% behind the Republican in a two-candidate race.
Friday afternoon could tell the tale for the ultimate outcome.
While Alameda County has updated its results after completing counts each day, Contra Costa County has not released updated figures since last Friday, with officials there saying they would spend this week tallying the nearly 110,000 ballots pending countywide and then announce the new results this Friday afternoon.
Bauer-Kahan has held a narrow lead in Contra Costa (50.2% to 49.8%) and has cut Baker's Alameda edge down to 50.3% to 49.7%. There are more registered voters in Contra Costa's portion of District 16 than Alameda's portion -- overall, the district consists of Tri-Valley and Lamorinda communities and part of Walnut Creek.
The Assembly District 16 election is the closest contest of all state or federal elected positions in California.
As results begin to solidify statewide, the Democrats have already regained a supermajority in the Assembly, with 57 districts going to the Democrats and 20 set for the Republicans -- plus, the two other undecided races are leaning Democrat with ballots still to count.
Local election results must be certified by Dec. 7.
Bauer-Kahan is an attorney 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 strikingly 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. Baker retained the seat for the GOP in 2016, comfortably defeating Democrat Cheryl Cook-Kallio, a former Pleasanton City Council member.
In the primary election this past June, Baker earned 56.6% of the vote to Bauer-Kahan's 43.2%, but the Democrat appears to have been 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.