But David Evans had a ballot designation – chief financial officer – made to order for a state controller's candidate.
Now the Republican from remote California City has an outside chance to make the runoff in the race to succeed Controller John Chiang. As of Wednesday morning, Evans had 21.6 percent of the vote, good for third place behind Republican Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin (24.4 percent) and Assemblyman John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles (21.7 percent) and just ahead of Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a Democrat (21.5 percent).
Evans ran strongly around the state, outpolling Swearengin in many counties outside Swearengin's San Joaquin Valley base.
"The ballot designation helped, no doubt about that," said Evans, who ran for controller in 2010, finishing second to then-state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark. But Evans, who got almost 40 percent of the GOP primary vote for controller in 2010, said he wasn't surprised at his strong showing.
"We did well then and did well now," he said. "For 30 years, I've worked around the state. I've been campaigning for the past three or four years."
Evans said his main regret Wednesday was that he hadn't done better in Los Angeles County, where Swearengin had 50,000 more votes than Evans as of Wednesday morning.
"If we had done a little better in L.A., I would be sitting here in the number two slot, no doubt," he said.
Tim Clark, an adviser to Swearengin, said the campaign had identified the challenge posed by Evans weeks ago. "Where we ran mail and radio, we won. Where we couldn't afford to do it, he beat us," Clark said of Evans.
Evans' strong finish evokes the 2010 Republican primary for insurance commissioner, when unknown attorney Brian Fitzgerald nearly defeated former Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines. After several days of vote-counting, Villines topped Fitzgerald by less than one percentage point. Villines lost that fall to then-Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento.
PHOTO: David Evans, a Republican candidate for state controller from California City. Photo courtesy of the Evans campaign.