Two Candidates Tied In California Congressional Primary

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Arjun Singh Contributor
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Two candidates have tied in a primary election for a U.S. House seat in California, according to preliminary results published by the California Secretary of State.

California’s 16th Congressional District covers the lower San Francisco Bay’s “Silicon Valley” areas of Palo Alto and Mountain View — including Stanford University and the global headquarters of Google and Meta — and is heavily Democratic, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) score of D+26. Results from the all-party “jungle” primary election, which was held on March 5, indicate that two Democratic candidates, Joe Smitian and Evan Low, are tied for second place with 30,249 votes each, meaning that they will both advance to the runoff election if the result holds. (RELATED: Adam Schiff Wins California Senate Primary With Republican Steve Garvey Heading To Runoff)

“I am honored to have won the support of our community to advance to the general election to replace the esteemed Anna Eshoo for Congress now that the Registrars of Voters have certified the results,” wrote Low, who serves as a California assemblyman for the 26th District, on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Thank you for this victory! We have important work to do,” wrote Smitian, a former California state senator and assemblymember, on X.

Low and Smitian were not the top-ranked candidates in the primary and were beaten by former Democratic Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose, who came first with 38,489 votes. However, all three are set to advance to the general election under California state law, which only permits candidates with the two highest vote totals to compete in the runoff.

Counties were required to file their vote totals with the Secretary of State on Friday, with candidates able to seek a recount before the results are certified on April 12, according to Decision Desk HQ. Since the enactment of the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act in 2011, there has not been a three-way congressional runoff election in the state.

Should any candidate request a recount, they would have to pay for it, according to state law. The cost of a recount in the district could cost as much as $325,000, according to NBC News.

“I think that you’re only going to want to request a recount if you’re pretty sure you’re going to win it,” claimed Justin Levitt, a professor of law at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, told NBC. “You need an awful lot of confidence to make sure that you win by one rather than losing by one at this point.”

The Secretary of State’s website, however, cautioned that the results could change in the coming days. This will only affect the tie, however, if Smitian or Low receive more votes, or if Republican candidate Peter Ohtaki receives enough votes to cover the nearly 7,000 vote difference between him and the top three candidates.

“Election results will change throughout the ballot counting canvass period as vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots (including conditional voter registration provisional ballots), and other ballots are tallied,” wrote the Secretary of State’s office on its website, where the results are published.

The incumbent representative, Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo, age 81, is retiring after having served in Congress for 32 years. Liccardo’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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