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Two Silicon Valley congressional candidates tied for second place

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With a second-place tie, three Democrats appear to be headed to the November ballot in the race for a coveted Silicon Valley congressional seat.

The extremely unusual situation comes after weeks of uncertainty, with second-place finishers Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and Assemblymember Evan Low of Campbell repeatedly trading positions, often while separated by just one or two votes. They appear to have finished the race with 30,249 votes apiece.

Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has maintained a first-place lead since the primary, securing his spot on the November ballot with more than 38,000 votes.

“It was like watching a snail race — the most exciting snail race I’ve ever witnessed in my life,” said Marva Diaz, a political consultant and publisher of the election guide California Target Book.

There did not immediately appear to be any precedent for a three-way California congressional race since the state shifted to its nonpartisan primary system in 2012, which dictates that the top two finishers advance to the November ballot regardless of party.

In the case of a second-place tie in a primary election, California elections code stipulates that both candidates appear on the general election ballot along with the first-place winner.

The candidates are vying to replace retiring Rep. Anna Eshoo of Menlo Park in a safely Democratic district that includes part of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

The results are not official yet, though both counties said Wednesday that all ballots had been processed. County election officials must finalize their official tallies by Thursday, with the secretary of state’s office expected to certify election results on April 12.

A three-way general election happened in an Assembly race in 2016, when former Assemblymember Autumn Burke faced off against two other candidates, as California Target Book research director Rob Pyers noted on Wednesday.

But both of the challengers were write-in candidates who tied with 32 primary votes each, making it a non-competitive general election race — and a very different situation from the battle brewing in California’s 16th Congressional District.

Simitian, Low and Liccardo are all current or previous elected officeholders who have run serious campaigns with significant fundraising.

Should the count hold and all three candidates make it to the final ballot, Diaz said, the presence of three Democrats running robust campaigns would “change the dynamics immensely” for the November election.

“Running against one other person is very different than running against two other people,” she said.

Eshoo announced her retirement in November after more than three decades in Congress. Democrats hold a more than 3-to-1 registration advantage over Republicans in the district, which includes the cities of Palo Alto and Mountain View and part of the city of San Jose.

Once the votes are certified, either candidate could also request a recount, which they would be required to pay for. But in a situation where they are both headed to the ballot, the political calculus for requesting a recount would be cloudy at best, since it could potentially result in either of them losing their slot.

Simitian’s communications director, Francesca Segrè, said Wednesday afternoon that his campaign would refrain from commenting until both counties had officially certified their results.

Low’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the Assembly member tweeted a smiling photo of himself wearing a shiny, violet-colored tie, quipping that “It’s a special ‘Tie’ day!”



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