Former Assembly Speaker John Perez said Sunday he will request a recount of votes cast in the June 3 primary contest for state controller, in which preliminary results show he does not have enough votes to advance to the November general election.
Vote tallies submitted so far to the secretary of state's office show Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, placing first and Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a Democrat, placing second, barely ahead of Perez. In his letter, Perez seeks recounts in 15 counties, including Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Fresno and Merced.
"Throughout my career, I have made voter registration and the defense of voting rights a core part of my work,'' Perez said in a statement. "Like all who have waited since Election Day, I seek a final determination as quickly as possible.''
Yee spokesman Parke Skelton called the request unfair, saying Perez selected the counties for recount where there was the strongest chance of scoring some random votes.
If Perez were really concerned about making sure all the votes counted, Skelton said, he would seek a statewide recount.
"Clearly they're on a fishing expedition,'' Skelton said. "They don't have any evidence that there's been any problem with how the votes have been tabulated.''
Under California's new primary system, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation. The race for the No. 2 slot alternated between the candidates in the weeks since the primary, as counties tallied their provisional and late vote-by-mail ballots.
The deadline for counties to submit their final vote count to the state was July 4, and the preliminary figures show Yee ahead of Perez by fewer than 500 votes out of 4.46 million cast, making it one of the closest statewide races in California history.
Perez, who represents Los Angeles in the state Assembly, is termed out of office at the end of the year and handed off the chamber's leadership post in May.
He had until Monday to decide whether to seek a recount.
California law has no provision for automatic recounts. Any voter or candidate can request one, but they also must pay the costs to counties to recount ballots.
That means Perez would be likely to seek strategic recounts in certain counties where his campaign thinks he is most likely to win more votes.
Campaign finance figures show Perez raised by far the most money in the controller's race and likely would have the most available to pay for a recount. Records show he had $1.8 million on hand in mid-May and has raised another $246,000 since then, although he is not yet required to report how much he spent in the final weeks of the campaign.
Yee had just $116,000 on hand in mid-May and brought in $31,000 since then, but her campaign also has not reported spending figures. The secretary of state's office will officially certify the results by July 11.