L.A. Election: Uncounted Ballots Could Change Initial Results

About 90,000 ballots from Tuesday's primary election remained uncounted today, casting a hint of uncertainty over City Council races in which two candidates narrowly earned enough votes to win seats outright, while another barely missed the cut and appeared bound for a runoff.

The only definitive results from the voting were the re-elections of 5th District Councilman Paul Koretz and 15th District Councilman Joe Buscaino. Outgoing 11th District Councilman Bill Rosendahl's chief deputy, Mike Bonin, also easily defeated three other candidates to replace his boss, who announced last year he was suffering from cancer and would not seek a third term.

Two council races will be decided in a May 21 runoff:

  • For the 9th District seat being vacated by unsuccessful mayoral candidate Jan Perry, Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles, will face Ana Cubas, Councilman Jose Huizar's former chief of staff.
  • In the race to replace mayoral hopeful Eric Garcetti in the 13th District, which includes Silver Lake, Thai Town, East Hollywood, and Echo Park, Mitch O'Farrell -- a co-founder of the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council and president of the neighborhood's park improvement organization -- will face John Choi -- a former Public Works commissioner and economic development director for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Choi would become the council's first Korean-American member if elected.

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The outcome of three other races, however, could potentially hinge on the final tally of the roughly 90,000 provisional and questioned ballots.

In the West Valley race to fill termed-out Dennis Zine's 3rd District council seat, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Van Nuys, finished with 51.62 percent of the vote, giving him just enough to avoid a runoff -- by about 311 votes. If the counting of remaining ballots pushes Blumenfield below the 50 percent mark, he would face Woodland Hills tax attorney Joyce Pearson in the runoff.

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Arleta, had 51.32 percent of the vote in the race to replace termed-out Councilman Richard Alarcon in the northeast San Fernando Valley's 7th District, giving him the seat by roughly 200 votes. If the remaining ballots force him in to a runoff, he would face education advocate Nicole Chase.

Another election that could hinge on uncounted ballots is the 1st District race to replace termed-out Councilman Ed Reyes. Former Assemblyman Gil Cedillo narrowly fell below the 50 percent mark, with unofficial final tallies giving him 49.4 percent -- about 83 votes shy of winning the seat outright. If that percentage holds, Cedillo will be forced to the May 21 runoff against Jose Gardea, Reyes' longtime chief of staff, in the battle to represent the district, which includes northeast Los Angeles, Chinatown, and Pico-Union.

Cedillo strategist John Shallman today took his candidates' lead as indication that voters "spoke loud and clear" and said it "puts (Cedillo) in a strong position for the runoff."

City clerk officials, who could not provide a district-by-district breakdown of the remaining ballots, have until March 26 to complete the count, according to spokeswoman Kimberly Briggs.

The remaining ballots include about 24,000 late vote-by-mail ballots, 27,000 vote-by-mail ballots that were turned in at polling places, 24,000 provisional ballots, and more than 14,000 questioned ballots.

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