Hill, Papan in dead heat for Assembly race

Peninsula political heavyweights Jerry Hill and Gina Papan continued to fight late into the night for the Democratic nomination to the region’s state Assembly seat, with the pair near deadlock.

Papan, Millbrae’s mayor, and Hill, a county supervisor, were still in a dead heat in the Democratic primary Tuesday in a hotly contested fight to replace termed-out Assemblymember Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco, for the 19th Assembly District seat. Hill and Papan appeared to have outlasted Richard Holober, president of the San Mateo Community College board.

“As soon as they start counting the precincts a little faster, I see us pulling away,” Hill said Tuesday night.

The primary ends a monthslong, controversy-filled battle featuring fiery debates, millions in donations and candidates repeatedly bashing one another in the media.

Hill emerged as the favorite after Mullin handpicked him as his preferred successor. Hill also was endorsed by 11 of the 12 mayors in the district, as well as U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough. Hill’s political experience, including 10 years on the Board of Supervisors and seven years on the San Mateo City Council, stood above his opponents’ experience.

Hill or Papan now will battle against a pair of political unknowns in the November election. The Democratic nominee will take on Tuesday’s Republican winner, Catherine Brinkman, as well as Libertarian Brian Perry. The district historically votes for Democrats and the party’s nominee likely will be the overwhelming favorite in November.

The new Assembly term begins in January, when Mullin will step aside. If Hill wins in November, the remaining four county supervisors must appoint a fifth member or hold a special election in early 2009 to fill the remainder of Hill’s term, which expires in late 2010.

If Papan wins in the November election, the remaining four Millbrae council members must either appoint a fifth member or call for a special election in early 2009 to fill the remainder of Papan’s term, which expires in late 2009. Holober, who was originally elected to the community college district in 1997, will continue serving there until at least 2009.

The biggest crises facing county residents are health care, the economy, environment and transportation, Hill and Papan said.

California’s 19th Assembly District is locatedentirely within San Mateo County, between parts of San Carlos and sections of Daly City, excluding Colma and including the entire coast.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

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