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PK_HARRIS166.JPGSteve Cooley conceded defeat today to Kamala Harris in the political slugfest for California attorney general.

The Republican called Harris today to congratulate her, and the two had a "brief and cordial conversation," said Kevin Spillane, Cooley's campaign consultant, in a media teleconference.

Cooley did not participate in the teleconference announcing his concession. He was busy at his job as Los Angeles County district attorney, Spillane said. "He frankly has a great deal of work to catch up on after the election."

Cooley's concession came 22 days after ballots were cast, with Harris leading by about 51,500 votes, representing a margin of about a half percentage point in a race that also featured four minor candidates.

Harris, in a written statement today, thanked Cooley for a "spirited campaign" and said she looked forward to working with him on the "critical public safety challenges facing California."

Harris, San Francisco's district attorney, stopped short of declaring victory today and said she would not do so until all votes have been tabulated. She scheduled a news conference for Nov. 30, the deadline for counties to finish counting votes.

Spillane blamed Cooley's defeat largely on the poor showing by Republicans in campaigns for statewide office, particularly that of gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who lost to Democrat Jerry Brown by nearly 13 percentage points.

"At the end of the day, did he lose because he was a Republican? Ultimately, yes," Spillane said, adding that exceptional turnout by Democrats, Cooley's lack of name recognition, and a difficult fundraising environment were factors in the race.

Cooley captured more votes than any other Republican seeking a major statewide office in California, including Whitman and U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina.

Cooley opted not to seek a recount because it would cost millions of dollars and was not likely to reverse the result, Spillane said.

"It is unfortunate that someone who is a non-partisan, non-politician could not overcome the increasingly partisan tendencies of the state, even for an office that by its nature necessitates a non-partisan approach, Cooley said in a written statement.

Cooley's statement said he would complete his term as Los Angeles district attorney, which expires in 2012. The 63-year-old did not elaborate on whether he plans to run for re-election.

"The campaign was a fascinating and very positive experience," he said. "I advocated for the issues in which I believed and proposed reforms California needs during these difficult times. I will continue to do the same as district attorney for the county of Los Angeles."

Harris, as attorney general, will fill the spot vacated by newly elected Gov. Jerry Brown.

Amended at noon to include written statements by the candidates and details of the concession teleconference.

Photo: Paul Kitagaki/The Sacramento Bee


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