Could Clendenen and/or Solomon Still Win?



Clif Clendenen and Norman Solomon are not ready to admit defeat. 

Local election night results (pdf) showed Estelle Fennell edging out incumbent Clif Clendenen for the 2nd District Board of Supervisors seat by a margin of about four percent -- 47.76 percent for Clendenen to 51.81 percent for Fennell. The gap between the two stands at 202 votes.

Nearly 6,500 votes have yet to be counted, according to Carolyn Crnich, the county's registrar of voters, and Clendenen reportedly told the Times-Standard that he's still hopeful that he could overtake Fennell and hold onto his supervisor seat. 

Meanwhile, anti-war activist Norman Solomon ended election night in third place behind frontrunner Jared Huffman and Republican investment broker Dan Roberts. In California's new open primary system, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to a November runoff. Solomon ended election night with 14.2 percent of the vote, not far behind Roberts' 15.3 percent. In a press release sent earlier today, Solomon's political consultant said this thing ain't over:

"We are confident once all of the votes cast in this race are actually counted that Norman Solomon will have earned a top-two finish and advance to the general election."

Do either of them have a shot?

Let's start with Clendenen:

The 6,468 ballots that remain uncounted countywide came from all five districts. Crnich said her department has yet to tally the exact numbers from each district, so we'll have to engage in some guesstimation here.

It would make sense if turnout was higher in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd districts, since those were the ones holding supervisor elections. Let's be generous and say that 75 percent of the remaining ballots came from those three districts. Split those into thirds and you get 1,617. We'll use that as a working estimate of how many ballots remain uncounted in the 2nd district.

Remember, Clendenen is down by only 202 votes. To win, he'd need to take more than 56 percent of the remaining votes, which certainly seems within the realm of the possible. 

But is it likely? The remaining ballots are almost entirely absentee, and Fennell did better than Clendenen in the absentee ballots counted thus far, taking 51.4 percent to Clendenen's 48.2 percent. If that trend holds (and I'd be curious to hear a reason why it shouldn't), then Fennell's lead would increase, not decrease, once all the votes have been counted.

[Update, 5:45 p.m.: Ask and ye shall receive. The Lost Coast Outpost's Hank Sims pointed us to his own 2006 analysis of local elections, in which he identified a curious trend: Late absentee ballots skew liberal. Might be a nail-biter after all.]

As for Solomon? Well, while I was crunching all these numbers, Sims crunched some of his own and concluded that it's "eminently possible."

Here's Solomon's press release:

California's Secretary of State Debra Bowen has designated the ongoing race for the 2nd Congressional District as a "close contest" due to the unresolved question as to who the top two finishers will be once all the votes cast in the race are counted (

As of the most recent vote count, Democrat Norman Solomon and Republican Dan Roberts are separated by only 1.1 percent with tens of thousands of ballots throughout the 2nd Congressional District remaining to be counted before county elections officials certify the election results to the Secretary of State by the first week of July.

"We are confident once all of the votes cast in this race are actually counted that Norman Solomon will have earned a top-two finish and advance to the general election," declared Tom Higgins, Solomon's political consultant.

County elections officials are to report the estimated number of ballots in their possession and remaining to be counted to the Secretary of State later today.  However, elections officials in all six counties comprising the 2nd Congressional District have already announced the actual number or made preliminary estimates as to the number of ballots remaining to be counted.

Location and Number of Ballots Remaining to be Counted

 Marin County - 20,000 to 25,000 according to Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold and reported in the Marin Independent Journal (;

Sonoma County - 25,000 to 35,000 according to Registrar of Voters Janice Atkinson and reported in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (;

It should be noted Sonoma County is split between CD 2 and CD 5, and the number of ballots remaining to be counted in each is unknown at this time.

Mendocino County - 6,634 according to Registrar of Voters Susan M. Ranochak and issued in a press release from her office last night (attached);

Humboldt County 5,700  [As mentioned above, Crnich said today that the number is closer to 6,500] as estimated by Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich, with media so advised as of this morning;

Del Norte County - 359 according to Registrar of Voters Alissia Northrup's staff and advised this morning;

Trinity County - Fewer than 300 according to Registrar of Voters Dave Hunt's staff and advised this morning.

There are fewer ballots remaining to be counted in Trinity, Del Norte, and Humboldt counties combined - where Roberts outperformed Solomon - than in Mendocino County alone, a Solomon stronghold.  And there are multiples more ballots remaining to be counted in Mendocino, Sonoma and Marin counties combined, where Solomon handily bested Roberts on Election Day. 

"In reviewing these numbers, a conservative estimate is there are at least 40,000 ballots left to be counted in the 2nd Congressional District," continued Higgins.  "More important is the distribution of these remaining ballots throughout the district coupled with the fact that these votes will perform more like polling place votes than early-return absentees did. That is how and why Norman Solomon will overtake Dan Roberts to secure the second-place finish he has earned once all the votes are counted in this race," concluded Higgins.



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