Republican Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, shown in the photo to the right, appears to have beaten Democrat John Laird in a hotly contested Senate primary election but narrowly failed to secure the majority vote necessary to capture the seat outright.
With all precincts counted, Blakeslee led Laird by a margin of 49.7 percent to 41.2 percent, with independent candidate Jim Fitzgerald garnering 6.1 percent and Libertarian Mark Hinkle about 3 percent.
If the vote totals hold up once all contested, provisional or other ballots are counted, all four candidates would square off Aug. 17 in an general election for the seat formerly held by Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a Republican from Santa Maria. The winner would hold the seat until 2012.
Tuesday night's precinct counts showed Blakeslee winning in San Luis Obispo County with 58 percent of the vote; Santa Barbara County, 62 percent; and Santa Clara, 47 percent.
Laird, a Santa Cruz resident, won Santa Cruz County with 56 percent of the vote, and in Monterey County, 55 percent.
The 15th District Senate race was being closely watched statewide because if Laird had captured the seat, Senate Democrats would be just one vote short of the two-thirds majority necessary to approve budgets and pass tax proposals. Independent groups spent more than $1 million to boost Blakeslee or Laird.
IMAGE: Bee file photo. Credit: Hector Amezcua.