Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images & CraigHuey.com
Janice Hahn (L) and Craig Huey (R) are vying for California's 36th district congressional seat.
Democrat Janice Hahn took an early lead over Republican Craig Huey in early returns in a hotly contested race to decide who will fill a vacant U.S. House seat in Southern California.
An unofficial tally of mail-in ballots in the 36th Congressional District special election Tuesday showed Hahn had 21,365, or about 54 percent, to Huey's 18,025, or about 46 percent. That's with fewer than three percent of precincts reporting.
The outcome could have national implications.
Democrats hold an 18-point registration edge in the district, but an expected small turnout and widespread voter anxiety over the economy could make for a tight finish.
The seat was previously held by Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, who resigned earlier this year to head a Washington think tank.