Hill unclenching his jaw, but lead at polls is narrow

After waiting 17 years, the last few agonizing hours before claiming victory in the race for the 19th Assembly District’s Democratic nomination were enough to finally push Jerry Hill to jitters of wedding-day proportions and a near-breakdown.

“[Tuesday] was the longest, most nerve-racking day of my life,” said Hill, who began campaigning for the post in late 2006. “My emotions were just on edge. … [I was] almost shaking, and my stomach was in a knot the entire day.”

The longtime San Mateo councilman and county supervisor was leading in the vote tally Wednesday afternoon over Gina Papan, the mayor of Millbrae, after Tuesday’s primary election.

In a statement Wednesday, Papan did not concede to Hill. She said she will be waiting for updated results, which will be released Friday.

“With thousands of ballots yet to be counted we are awaiting the final results,” Papan said in the statement.

Hill was leading Papan Wednesday by a single percentage point. San Mateo Community College Board President Richard Holober will likely finish third.

If Hill is indeed the victor, he will be the overwhelming favorite in November’s election against Republican Catherine Brinkman and Libertarian Brian Perry. Incumbent Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco will be termed out in January.

Holober said early absentee ballots hurt his effort to overcome his opponents’ more recognizable names and “political machine operations.”

“I had to introduce myself to voters who weren’t as familiar with me,” Holober said. “That doesn’t happen overnight.”

After helping serve the county from the inside for 17 years, Hill can begin turning his attention to Sacramento. There, he said, he plans on working to improve health care and resolve the state budget crisis.

During his final months on the Board of Supervisors, Hill said, he would like to reach a resolution on an adult health care initiative and see the San Mateo Medical Center find more solid financial footing.

If Hill wins in the November election, 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.

The 19th Assembly District is located entirely within San Mateo County, between parts of San Carlos and sections of Daly City, excluding Colma and including the entire coast.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

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