Shortly after late returns Tuesday night showed that Councilman Bill Harrison had received the most votes in Fremont's mayoral race, he received congratulatory phone calls from two opponents, Councilwoman Anu Natarajan and Aziz Akbari.
"I felt honored and endlessly happy for all the people who invested their time and emotion in this campaign," Harrison said.
But no call came from former Councilman Steve Cho, who captured the second-most votes. Cho has refused to concede the race, saying it is too early to declare anyone Fremont's next mayor-elect. Cho, who trails Harrison by about 1,900 votes, estimates that as many as 15,000 Fremont ballots have not yet been counted, and he won't consider throwing in the towel until the ballot-counting is completed.
Alameda County election officials said Wednesday they still were counting about 140,000 ballots that have not yet been included in Election Day results. Of the uncounted ballots, 100,000 are vote-by-mail ballots and 40,000 are provisional.
"I have questions in my mind: Where are those votes at? And why were there so many provisionals?" Cho said. "Win or lose, I just want to make sure the process is fair."
As of Wednesday afternoon, Harrison had captured 35.25 percent of the vote, while Cho had 31 percent. Natarajan was third with 25.8 percent, Akbari was fourth with 5.5 percent, and perennial candidate Linda Susoev finished last with 2.2 percent.
Cho said county election officials told him they will spend the rest of the week counting remaining ballots, when he hopes his tally passes Harrison's. If Harrison were to extend his lead in that time, Cho said he does not have a number in mind that would prompt him to concede the race.
"I'll wait until I get to that point," he said.
The winner will replace Gus Morrison, a former mayor appointed this year to serve on an interim basis after Mayor Bob Wasserman died in December.
Union City's mayoral race was much simpler yet ended with a historic result. Carol Dutra-Vernaci, who ran unopposed, became the Tri-City area's first female mayor by capturing 97.5 percent of the votes. She is replacing Mark Green, who lost a bid for county supervisor Tuesday after choosing not to run for re-election the mayor's job he had held since 1992.
"It's an honor, and it really means a lot to me," Dutra-Vernaci said Wednesday. "I'm thrilled about going forward as part of the leadership team of our area."
In the Fremont City Council race, the third time was the charm for Vinnie Bacon who is a first-time winner after losing the 2008 and 2010 races. While Bacon led all candidates with 25.6 percent of the vote, Councilwoman Sue Chan -- the race's lone incumbent -- retained her seat by finishing second with 22.5 percent.
The top two vote-getters won the election.
John J. Dutra, co-owner of a land-development company, trailed in third place with 18.27 percent; former Fremont police Officer Rick Jones was fourth with 18.21 percent; Rakesh Sharma, a retired medical research scientist, was fifth with 11.5 percent; and Mark Wadley, a surgical technologist, finished last with 3.8 percent.
In Union City, incumbent Jim Navarro soundly defeated newcomer Jose Estrella to retain his council seat. Navarro captured his third term on the City Council by receiving nearly 67 percent of the vote. Estrella had 32.2 percent.
Staff writer Angela Woodall contributed to this report. Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.