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Vargas-Salas Senate race down to the wire

The vote tally in the state’s most competitive Senate primary race has tightened to just 48 votes and could be heading to a recount.

The 40th Senate District race between Democrats Juan Vargas and Assemblywoman Mary Salas pitted business groups, who stood with Vargas, against the law enforcement, union and tribal groups allied with Salas. Spending from interest groups in the race topped $2.5 million. Salas was backed by Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who marshalled staff resources to aide the Salas campaign, and some viewed the race as a test of his leadership.

The district includes parts of Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties. With late votes  from all three counties in, Salas holds a 48-vote lead over Vargas, down from 252 votes earlier this week.

Election officials in Imperial County said there are 31 ballots left to count there. That tally should be done this afternoon. Vargas has been steadily gaining in all three counties in the late tallies, but Imperial was where he performed best.

Under state law, any individual can request a recount of the ballots in the race, but they must be willing to pay for the extra work from county elections officials. A spokesman for the Civil Justice Association of California, which spent more than $1.5 million on Vargas’s behalf, did not immediately return calls seeking comment about a possible recount.

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