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David Harmer. (Sherry LaVars/Staff)

Democratic incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney declared victory Wednesday evening in the race to retain his 11th Congressional District seat, saying the remaining ballots couldn't put Republican challenger David Harmer back on top.

"With the vast majority of votes tallied, the results are clear. McNerney now has an insurmountable lead," McNerney campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release.

Not so fast, Harmer cautioned.

"On Election Night, when I led by thousands of votes, and supporters were congratulating me and calling me congressman, I cautioned that it was too early to claim victory. Many votes remained to be counted," he said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday evening. "That is still the case tonight. Just as it would have been premature to claim victory then, it would be premature to concede defeat now.

"As I said the day after the election, my objective is to ensure that every legitimate vote is accurately counted. Once that has been done, I will offer a statement about the results."

As of Wednesday evening, McNerney, D-Pleasanton, led Harmer by 1,681 votes, or about seven-tenths of a percent of the almost 231,000 ballots counted. A previous update, on Tuesday night, had shown McNerney up by 2,269 votes, but Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Santa Clara counties posted updates Wednesday.

Registrars in the four counties within the district continue to tally votes, and don't expect to certify their final counts until at least Nov. 24.


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McNerney -- seeking a third term in the House of Representatives -- leads Harmer -- an attorney from San Ramon's Dougherty Valley -- in Alameda County by about 15.5 percentage points and in Santa Clara County by 8.2 points.

Harmer leads McNerney by about one-fifth of a point in Contra Costa County and by 4.3 points in San Joaquin County, the latter of which includes the largest chunk of the 11th District.

McNerney's campaign argued Wednesday that based on the trends, Harmer could close the gap by fewer than 300 votes from the 11,000 remaining provisional and vote-by-mail ballots in San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties, while McNerney could expect to pick up more votes than Harmer from among about 700 still-uncounted ballots in Alameda and Santa Clara counties.