The latest results showed District 5 candidate Kathryn Barger and District 4 candidate Janice Hahn leading as of early Wednesday morning in their respective primary contests to fill two Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors seats.
Barger is running to represent northern Los Angeles County and to succeed her boss, Michael Antonovich, who is termed out. Barger, who is a Republican, works as his chief of staff.
Hahn, who is a Democratic congresswoman and former Los Angeles City Council member, is competing for the seat representing the South Bay and east to Diamond Bar. That seat is held by supervisor Don Knabe, who is also termed out.
The rare openings could mark a major change in the balance on the influential board and the county's future direction.
Winners of the two contests will help oversee an annual budget of roughly $3o billion covering such critical services as foster care, the sheriff's department, county jails and resources for the county's homeless.
Although officially nonpartisan, the board is now split 3-2, with Democrats in the majority. The election could add at least a fourth liberal to the board, creating what is called a "supermajority." Some critics have warned this could lead to unchecked spending.
In all, 11 candidates are competing for the two contested seats. Unlike the race for California's U.S. Senate seat and contests for the state Assembly and Senate, a candidate can win a supervisor's seat outright in the primary with 50 percent of the votes plus one.
If that doesn't happen, the top two candidates advance to the November general election. As of late Tuesday, Hahn was the only candidate nearing that 50 percent mark with about 47 percent of the vote and many precincts still to be counted.
Around 11:30 p.m. at an election party in Norwalk, Hahn made a late night speech after most of her supporters had gone home.
She spoke about the legacy of her father, longtime former county supervisor Kenneth Hahn, and said she'd fight for the seat through November if needed.
"I'm going to get there," she said, to cheers. "We're going to get there."
Other contenders for Knabe’s seat include Republican Steve Napolitano and Democrat Ralph Pacheco. Napolitano had a significant lead over Pacheco late Tuesday.
Barger addressed her supporters Tuesday night at a Pasadena restaurant, with Antonovich standing next to her and Mark-Ridley Thomas, who won his own race unopposed for the second district, looking on from the audience.
Shortly after, she said she was "feeling grateful, overwhelmed, and confident," but that she was not taking anything for granted.
Barger, who’s never held public office, said working for Antonovich helped her break out from the rest of the field.
“I’m not going to discount Supervisor Antonovich’s popularity – being in office for the last 36 years – but it’s also about people understanding who I am and what I’m about,” Barger said.
Barger also received a boost from labor unions.
Eight candidates, most of them Republicans, are competing for Antonovich's seat. The top contenders behind Barger, former White House staffer Darrell Park and state Sen. Bob Huff, were locked in a tight race for second, at 15 percent and 14.9 percent, respectively — a difference of just 417 votes with 99.3 percent of precincts reporting. Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian, L.A. County prosecutor Elan Carr, businessman Rajpal Kahlon, Altadena Council member Billy Malone and Los Angeles City Council member Mitch Englander were trailing behind in preliminary returns.
This story has been updated.