By Nina Martin, New America Media
SAN FRANCISCO— In perhaps the biggest surprise of the California 2010 elections –- one that shows better than any other race on Tuesday just how different California is from the rest of the nation— San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris seemed poised to become the state’s next attorney general.
If she wins, Harris—whose mother was Indian and whos father is black— would be the first female African-American attorney general in the country’s history.
With nearly 7 million ballots counted by Wednesday morning, Democrat Harris held a razor-thin lead over Republican Steve Cooley, who had been ahead much of Tuesday night and had been the clear frontrunner for much of the campaign.
Fewer than 38,000 votes separated the two candidates as thousands of late absentee and provisional ballots remain to uncounted. Cooley, the Los Angeles County district attorney, declared victory and scheduled a victory press conference for Wednesday morning.
But as the race tightened, his campaign announced he was canceling the press conference until the race had a more definitive result.
Harris, who narrowly trailed in most polls leading up to Election Day, is trying to complete a Democratic sweep of statewide offices. All other statewide offices went to Democrats, including the three currently held by Republicans: governor, lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner.
However, Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo had noted last week that his poll–which showed Harris behind Cooley by just one percentage point—had shown that many voters were undecided, and he predicted that women voters, particularly in the coastal and urban parts of the state, could give her the edge.
"Steve Cooley, who declared victory and went home, should be up biting his nails," state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francsico) said shortly before 1 a.m. to a dwindling crowd of Harris backers in San Francisco, the Los Angeles Times reported. "It's going to be a story long into tomorrow, but my own assessment and opinion is, we win this race!"
Cooley ran on a strong law-and-order message, while Harris emphasized environmental protection in her campaign. Harris proved to be a prodigious fundraiser, and received campaign help from President Obama in the closing weeks of the campaign.