Tobacco tax backers in California officially conceded defeat Friday in the tight Proposition 29 race after they determined the vote gap had simply grown too large to overcome.
The initiative is losing by 27,888 votes out of more than 5 million counted, a 49.7 percent to 50.3 percent divide, the Secretary of State's Office reported this morning.
As counties tallied their remaining ballots after the June 5 election, the gap had steadily shrunk from about 60,000 votes down to 13,000 votes as recently as Wednesday. But the tide turned late this week, and there remain only 111,472 ballots left to tally, the Secretary of State's Office showed.
Yes on 29 campaign manager Chris Lehman said the math showed it would almost certainly be too difficult to mount a comeback at this point because his side would need to win nearly 65 percent of the remaining ballots.
Proposition 29 would have raised tobacco taxes by $1 per pack of cigarettes and paid for cancer research, stop-smoking programs and related law enforcement efforts. Opponents said that the money could be better spent on solving California's immediate budget problems and that it would create a new state bureaucracy. Tobacco companies funded virtually all of the statewide campaign with nearly $47 million.
In a statement, the campaign called it a "sad day for California" and blamed tobacco companies for a "misinformation campaign." Proponents vowed to ask voters for another tobacco tax hike in the future.
"We're certainly not going away," said Jim Knox of the American Cancer Society. "It's not going to slow our efforts to battle tobacco companies and cancer. We will be looking for opportunities to do that wherever they may present themselves."