The race to become California's chief fiscal officer was too close to call Tuesday, with Democrat Betty Yee narrowly leading Ashley Swearengin, a Republican who represented one of the party's best hopes to break the Democratic stranglehold on statewide offices.
With 2.8 million votes counted - and millions more pending - Yee led 51 percent to 49 percent over the Fresno mayor.
The two are competing to run the office that manages California's cash flow, audits government programs and administers pension funds. Due to term limits, Democratic incumbent John Chiang could not run again.
Yee, a member of the state tax body called the Board of Equalization, cast herself as a policy expert in state finances. She said she wants to expand audits of government programs, cities and counties. She also advocated reforming the state tax structure so it does not depend so heavily on personal income taxes paid by the wealthiest Californians.
``I'm feeling very optimistic,'' Yee said, noting that the returns did not include vote totals from heavily Democratic cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Swearengin watched the results at a small party at a friend's house in the city she runs.
``We're just here enjoying the results so far,'' Swearengin said of Republicans' sweeping victories nationally. And of her own race: ``It's very close.''
Swearengin tried to woo independent voters and persuade Democrats to cross party lines by emphasizing her stewardship of finances as mayor of Fresno, which veered toward but avoided bankruptcy during the recession. Her campaign emphasized her executive and fiscal experience as leader of the Central Valley city.
Swearengin said she would try to reduce the state's roughly $300 billion in long-term liabilities and improve its business climate. She angered some members of her own party by refusing to endorse GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari, who lost Tuesday to Gov. Jerry Brown.