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VIDEO: Dan Walters, in his latest video report, says that Tuesday's low turnout isn't a good thing for California.

Voters who went to sleep biting their nails over the Proposition 29 tobacco tax initiative can keep biting this morning.

The proposed $1-per-pack cigarette tax was losing by a razor-thin margin, 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent after 100 percent of the state's precincts had fully or partially reported their results.

The margin represented about 63,000 votes out of more than 3.8 million cast. What was not immediately clear in today's predawn hours was how many mail-in, dropped-off or contested ballots remained to be tallied.

By contrast, Proposition 28 was a runaway winner, capturing support from more than 61 percent of California's voters to reduce the total number of years that a legislator can serve from 14 to 12 -- but allow all to be served in one house.

In one of California's wildest, most expensive legislative slugfests, in the 50th Assembly District in Los Angeles County, all four candidates were separated by less than 2 percentage points with all precincts reporting. Democrats Betsy Butler had 25.9 percent of the vote, Richard Bloom, 25.6 percent, and Torie Osborn, 24.3 percent. Republican Bradly S,. Torgan had 24.2 percent.

The primary election marked California's first under a top-two primary system, allowing voters to cast ballots in legislative or congressional races for candidates of any party, with the two highest vote-getters advancing to a November runoff.

Tuesday night was a time for watching big money as labor unions, business interests and wealthy individuals sought to influence races statewide.

How successful were they?

Republican donor Charles T. Munger Jr., for instance, had put his money behind Republican Assemblyman Allan Mansoor's more moderate GOP challenger, Leslie Daigle, in the Irvine-based 74th Assembly District. Even so, Mansoor garnered 43 percent of the vote, easily advancing to the November runoff against Democrat Robert Rush.

Munger seemed to get more for his money in the Sacramento area 6th Assembly District when he backed Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, against Proposition 8 lawyer Andy Pugno. Gaines was the top vote-getter by a comfortable margin, capturing 37 percent of ballots cast. Democrat Regy Bronner narrowly led Republican Andy Pugno, 31.9 percent to 31.2 percent, for the right to square off against Gaines in this year's general election.

The California Chamber of Commerce backed several moderate Democrats in open seats, reporting independent expenditures for Stockton City Councilwoman Susan Eggman in the Stockton-based 13th Assembly District. Eggman easily beat two other Democrats -- receiving 40 percent of votes cast -- and will face Republican Jeffrey Jafri in the fall.

The Chamber also put its money behind Orange County Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly in the Santa Ana-based 69th Assembly District. He crushed three Democratic opponents, with 41 percent of the vote, for the right to run against Republican Jose "Joe" Moreno in November.

Labor unions, meanwhile, had backed one of Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly's GOP challengers, Big Bear Lake Mayor Bill Jahn, in the safe GOP 33rd Assembly District. Donnelly beat back the challenge easily, tallying nearly 52 percent of votes cast. Democrat John Coffey won the second spot for the right to compete in November.

How did "no-party-preference" candidates fare? Former Assemblyman Anthony Adams, who ditched his Republican Party allegiance before running in the 8th Congressional District, hardly registered a blip in Tuesday's balloting, receiving less than 4 percent of the vote to finish ninth in a 13-person field.

Find these and other up-to-date election returns at

Jim Sanders contributed to this post.


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