Democrat Ami Bera clung to a razor-thin lead this morning in his fight to unseat Republican Rep. Dan Lungren, though both sides cautioned that it could be days before a winner is declared in the 7th Congressional District.
The two-time rivals for a suburban Sacramento swing seat spent Tuesday night locked in a near tie, with both candidates pulling ahead by margins of fewer than 1,000 votes at different points in the night. Bera now leads by just 184 votes out of more than 176,000 ballots cast.
Many more ballots still need to be counted. County election officials have not yet tallied all the absentee and provisional ballots turned in by Election Day, but spokeswoman Alice Jarboe said the sheer volume appears to be "record breaking."
"I can tell just by the bins and all.... the pink return containers that are filling up these hampers," she said of the scene at the elections office this morning.
Lungren's campaign manager estimated that tens of thousands of unprocessed ballots remain, telling supporters in an email that "we may not know the outcome of this race for days or even weeks."
"We remain cautiously optimistic and will monitor the final count closely," Jeff Wyly wrote in the message.
Bera campaign manager Josh Wolf agreed that there could "easily be tens of thousands" of ballots left.
"We are very optimistic but there's a long road ahead," he said in an interview. "It's going to be at least a couple of days, if not significantly longer."
Jarboe said she hopes to have an update on the total number of unprocessed ballots today, as well as a schedule for counting the remaining votes.
"Both camps are sitting on pins and needles and really want the results now," she said. "I understand that but the results will come when they come. ... kind of like a baby."