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Tea Party wants recount in Inland Congressional primary

Lesli Gooch appealed to potential voters during the primary election at a meeting of Redlands Tea Party members.
Lesli Gooch appealed to potential voters during the primary election at a meeting of Redlands Tea Party members.
Lesli Gooch for Congress/Facebook

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San Bernardino officials will recount ballots in a closely fought congressional primary election at the request of a Tea Party group.

John Berry, a board member with Redlands Tea Party Patriots, made the request on behalf of Republican Lesli Gooch, who placed a close third behind Democratic candidate and Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar and Republican front-runner Paul Chabot.

The tea party group had endorsed Gooch in the primary. Berry said he hopes the recount will erase Aguilar's second-place lead of 209 votes and put Gooch in contention against Chabot in the November general election. 

Gooch's campaign manager Jeff Stinson confirmed Thursday that the campaign supported the recount and would pay the bill for it.

Under state law, the party requesting a recount can pick the precincts to be tallied and the number of recount workers to do the counting. A recount must begin within a week, and can be stopped whenever the requester decides to. Berry said he expected all precincts to be counted and did not have a start date.

Much is at stake for the two main political parties in the 31st Congressional District, which extends from Rancho Cucamonga to Redlands in San Bernardino County.

Congressman Gary Miller was targeted by Democrats as the most vulnerable House Republican  going into the 2014 election. His district is about 40 percent Democratic, has  a near-majority population of Latinos, and it heavily supported President Obama in the 2012 election. Miller won in a two-Republican runoff after Democrats splintered the vote among several candidates.

It's rare for vote recounts to produce changes in election outcomes, but if Gooch were to get into the runoff against Chabot, it would be a repeat of the two-Republican scenario, guaranteeing the Republicans claim on the district for another two years.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee threw its support behind Aguilar last year, even before Miller announced his retirement. The DCCC also funded independent mailers against Gooch late in the primary.

Candidate Votes Percent
REP - PAUL CHABOT 14,163 26.60%
DEM - PETE AGUILAR 9,242 17.36%
REP - LESLI GOOCH 9,033 16.96%
DEM - JOE BACA 5,954 11.18%
DEM - DANNY TILLMAN 4,659 8.75%
REP - RYAN DOWNING 1,737 3.26%