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Final tally: Democrat wins Assembly race

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POSTED November 22, 2013 10:02 p.m.

SACRAMENTO  (AP) — A final vote tally released Friday showed Democrat Matt Dababneh narrowly winning a special election to fill a Los Angeles-area seat in the state Assembly, but his Republican opponent said she is considering asking for a recount.

With all votes counted from Tuesday's runoff election, the totals submitted to the secretary of state's office from Los Angeles and Ventura county election officials showed Dababneh with 14,984 votes to Susan Shelley's 14,655.

If the 329-vote margin holds through the official canvass — when election officials verify the tallies are accurate — Democrats will maintain their supermajorities in both legislative chambers. The two-thirds edge allows Democrats to pass tax increases and emergency legislation, override gubernatorial vetoes and put constitutional amendments before voters without any Republican votes.

Shelley did not concede and said she will have five days after the official canvass deadline of Dec. 2 to decide whether to challenge the count. The secretary of state has until Dec. 27 to certify the results.

Shelley noted that the vote tally submitted Friday included 351 more ballots than Los Angeles County election officials had said were waiting to be counted after Election Day.

Elizabeth Knox, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder, said those extra ballots included ones that listed write-in candidates, were damaged or had some other problem, or were received in the mail on Tuesday. The previous estimate released by her office included only the number of ballots that went uncounted at the polls Tuesday, including vote-by-mail ballots that had been dropped off.

The race was tighter than expected in a district where Democrats have a 49 percent to 25 percent voter registration edge over Republicans.

Dababneh, a top aide to U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, blamed the narrow margin on low turnout, as less than 11 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. He also cited what he described as "the national mood" and angst over the rollout of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

He also said Shelley's moderate stances on social views made her a formidable candidate and said she had significant name recognition because of her previous unsuccessful runs for office.

Shelley had positioned her candidacy as essential to blocking Democrats from the margin they needed to raise taxes or alter Proposition 13, the 1978 initiative that rolled back property tax levels and put a cap on how much they could rise each year.

The Assembly District 45 seat became vacant this summer when incumbent Bob Blumenfield, a Democrat, resigned after winning election to the Los Angeles City Council.

It includes the southwest San Fernando Valley communities of Encino, Northridge and West Hills, as well as the cities of Calabasas and Hidden Hills, all in Los Angeles County. It also includes a sliver of Ventura County.


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