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Oakland Mayor's Race - Dellums Lead Shrinking Below Outright Win

Last night at The Alley, a friend walked up to me and said "Dellums' lead is smaller than a ____ hair." I'll leave you to fill in that blank, but the vote count is now such that it appears the Oakland Mayors Race may be headed toward a runoff. That's both good and bad for Dellums supporters - myself included. Good, because it's a chance to really sharpen the knifes and get the campaign in a position to better reach out to the people of Oakland. Bad, because it means that De La Fuente gets another shot.

Dellums' hopes of outright mayoral victory are fading
Runoff seems more likely, but thousands of ballots still must be tallied

OAKLAND — Former U.S. Rep. Ron Dellums' razor-thin lead in the race to become Oakland's next mayor slipped away Friday afternoon, as he dropped below the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff against City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente.

Alameda County elections officials counted 9,602 absentee votes Friday as they scrambled to decide the race to become Oakland's next mayor. Although Dellums began the day with a cushion of 145 votes separating him from a potentially bruising and expensive runoff, he ended it 238 votes short of that goal, according to results posted at 5 p.m.

"This is unbelievable," said Mike Healy, aspokesman for the Dellums campaign. "There's nothing we can do but wait."
With about 5,500 absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted, the race is still too close to call. In addition, an unknown number of damaged ballots will have to be counted by hand.

Of the 74,770 votes counted, Dellums has 49.61 percent and De La Fuente 33.39 percent, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. Councilmember Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland) got 13.23 percent.

Larry Tramutola, De La Fuente's campaign manager, said he is pleased with Friday's results.

"But our No.1 goal is to make sure every vote gets counted, no matter who they voted for," he said.

Tramutola said he's encouraged that of the votes counted Friday, only 46 percent were for Dellums.

"We think the trend is in our favor," Tramutola said.

Elections officials will count ballots through the weekend, said Guy Ashley, spokesman for the Registrar of Voters Office. A definitive result was not expected until Sunday or Monday, he added.

Although the pace quickened Friday, the effort to count all the votes progressed slowly because workers had to verify signatures on the absentee ballots' envelopes by comparing them to the county's database, and then have them read by one of 60 scanners.

Neither campaign has ruled out the possibility of recounts — or lawsuits — that could keep the drama rolling for many more weeks.

E-mail Heather MacDonald at hmacdonald@oaklandtribune.com.
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