Three Democrats stood out from a crowd of 13 candidates as they seek spots in a run-off for an open seat in the California Assembly.
Wendy Carrillo was leading with 21 percent of votes in the semi-official results reported Tuesday night in the special primary election to fill the seat representing northeastern Los Angeles.
That puts her nowhere near the 50 percent needed to claim the seat outright. Carrillo appeared headed to a December run-off with second-place candidate Luis López, who has about 19 percent of the vote.
Lopez was followed by Mike Fong with a little less than 17 percent. The other 10 candidates are running well behind.
A little more than 17,000 ballots were counted as of Tuesday night. That's out of about 221,000 eligible registered voters, resulting in an early turnout figure of 7.83 percent with an unknown number of ballots still remaining to be counted, according to L.A. County election officials. The next ballot count update will be on Friday.
Democrats are looking to bolster their supermajority in the Assembly, and it's extremely likely two of them will emerge in the top slots once all the votes are counted, assuring them the seat.
"Democrats can't lose, no matter who wins, no matter who ends up in the runoff," said Jaime Regalado, former executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University.
California's 51st Assembly District is one of the most solidly Democratic in the state, with a heavily Latino population and a large block of LGBT voters. No Republicans are running for the seat. The other three candidates represent the Libertarian Party, the Peace and Freedom Party or have no party preference, and all got only a handful of votes.
The seat was vacated this summer by now U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez. The Democrat was elected to Congress in a special election to replace Xavier Becerra, now California's Attorney General.
A Democratic victory will again give the party 55 out of 80 Assembly seats — one over the threshold needed for a supermajority, giving the party power to pass tax and fee increases without Republicans. Democrats also hold a supermajority in the Senate.
Labor, LGBT and women's groups are all playing in the contest, backing their favorite candidates.
Carrillo, for example, has the support of Emily's List, a national organization that backs Democratic women, and the legislative Women's Caucus. The Service Employees International Union also endorsed her.
Meanwhile, the LGBT group Equality California backed four candidates: Lopez, Alex de Ocampo, David Vela and Mark Vargas. All but Vargas are openly gay men.