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Republican Bill Berryhill continues to lead, but Cathleen Galgiani has cut into his margin considerably in their nail-biting battle for a Senate seat.

Berryhill, who once led by about 4,800 votes, ended Friday with a 1,465-vote advantage as counting of provisional and mail ballots continued in the 5th Senate District of San Joaquin, Stanislaus and a tiny portion of Sacramento counties.

The fight for the 5th Senate District was one of the most contentious statewide, with both parties targeting it for capture.

If she wins, Galgiani would represent the Democrats' 29th vote in the 40-member house, two more than necessary for a two-thirds supermajority. That extra cushion could be crucial to the party, at least in the early months of 2013, because two incumbent Democratic senators won seats to Congress in the Nov. 6 election. Once they resign from the state Senate, their strongly left-leaning districts would not pick a replacement for months.

In the Senate race pitting Berryhill against Galgiani, a majority of the ballots left untallied are from San Joaquin, the only county in which Galgiani has garnered more votes - by about 4,000 -- than Berryhill, a current Assembly colleague and fellow Stockton resident.

Galgiani's success in San Joaquin continues to give her campaign hope of overcoming Berryhill. The county has about 17,700 provisional ballots to be counted. A provisional ballot is one in which a question has been raised about the voter's eligibility. It will be rejected if the issue is not resolved.

About 70 percent of the 5th Senate District's residents live in San Joaquin, compared to 27 percent in Stanislaus and and 3 percent in Sacramento.

Stanislaus County elections officials said they have 11,000 provisonal, and 2,000 to 3,000 mail ballots left to count, perhaps half of which apply to the 5th Senate District.

Sacramento County only has about 150 ballots left to count in the race, according to Thomas Lawson, Galgiani's campaign manager. The number is a calculation based on the sliver of area within the Senate District and total ballots remaining countywide -- about 31,000 provisional and 7,700 vote-by-mail.

Berryhill has outpaced his Democratic opponent by about 4,500 votes in Stanislaus and 1,000 in Sacramento County.

* Updated at 12:15 p.m. Friday to note how many Stanislaus County ballots are left to count. Updated at 5:23 p.m. to reflect about 1,300 ballots counted by San Joaquin County and posted onto its website shortly before the close of business Friday.


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