The primary election for California state controller has come to an end.

Assemblymember John Perez (D-Los Angeles) conceded defeat Friday, enabling fellow Democrat Betty Yee, a member of the Board of Equalization, to challenge Republican Ashley Swearengin, mayor of Fresno, in the general election.

The winner in November will succeed Democrat John Chiang, who is termed out and running for state treasurer.

John Perez and Betty Yee
John Perez and Betty Yee

In the June 3 primary, Swearengin came in first out of six candidates, but the title of runner-up alternated between Yee and Perez as ballots were processed over the past month. Yee ultimately finished 481 votes ahead of Perez — 878,195 to 877,714.

Yee declared victory, but on July 6 Perez asked the California Secretary of State’s Office for a recount in 15 counties, including Imperial and Kern, which produced some additional votes but not enough to overtake Yee. As the candidate requesting a recount must also pay for it, Perez said the cost of a statewide recount was prohibitive.

“Today I have made the decision to bring the recount process to an end, and pledge my full support to Betty Yee to be California’s next controller,” Perez said in a statement on Friday.

“While I strongly believe that completing this process would result in me advancing to the general election, it is clear that there are significant deficiencies in the process itself which make continuing the recount problematic. Even in the effort so far, we have found uncounted ballots, but there is simply not enough time to see this process through to the end, given the fact that counties must begin printing ballots in the next few weeks in order to ensure that overseas and military voters can receive their ballots in a timely manner.

“I began this process because every vote deserves to be counted fairly and accurately, and as the recount has made clear, California needs to rethink our approach and incorporate best practices from across the nation. This effort was not about the outcome of a particular election, but the integrity of every election, and the issues brought to the light over the last two weeks need to be addressed in a comprehensive and thoughtful manner.”

“I want to thank Speaker Emeritus John A. Perez for doing the right thing in recognizing that the recount was unlikely to reverse the outcome of the June primary election,” Yee said in a statement. “This allows us to move forward and to be united for the November general election.

“John A. Perez is an outstanding leader who has played an important role in helping to put California back on sound fiscal footing. He ran a strong and positive campaign and will have a long career of leadership and public service.”

Perez is barred from running for re-election due to term limits.

Yee, who lives in Alameda, told The San Francisco Chronicle, “I always felt confident. But I felt badly about all my supporters who had to wait so long for a result and for the divisiveness and cracks in party unity I was starting to see.”

Yee serves as one of five members on the Board of Equalization, the nation’s only elected tax commission. She represents close to 9 million Californians in the 1st Equalization District, composed of 21 counties primarily along the northern and central coast and including the entire San Francisco Bay Area. She was first elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. Due to term limits, she cannot run again.

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