John Arntz, director of the Department of Elections, briefs reporters on the latest vote count. (Joshua Sabatini/S.F. Examiner)

Leno’s lead in San Francisco mayoral contest shrinks to 144 votes

Vote tallies announced Friday show Board of Supervisors President London Breed has continued to gain on former state Sen. Mark Leno since election night.

The latest count has Leno ahead of Breed by 144 votes, after 19,475 more ballots were counted since Thursday. There remain 64,900 more ballots to count.

Early Wednesday morning, Leno led by 1,146 votes. His lead was cut to just 255 votes Thursday with about 84,000 ballots remaining to count. This was after the department counted about 12,700 ballots in the two days following the election.

John Arntz, director of the Department of Elections, briefs reporters daily at 4 pm when an update is provided. He doesn’t say exactly what precincts the ballots come from, but that data is provided on the department’s website.

Those watching the results are attempting to analyze this data and make assumptions, but with a razor thin margin and tens of thousands of ballots remaining the race remains too close to call.

Representatives of both candidates were on hand at City Hall to observe the process and learn of the latest tallies.

“We are not taking anything for granted. We are just trying to remain calm and really what’s important is that every single vote is counted,” said Tara Moriarty, a spokesperson for Breed. “We are just hoping for the best and hoping the remainder of the 65,000 votes swing our direction.”

When asked if she thinks they will swing Breed’s way, she said, “We are praying.”

Erin Mundy, Leno’s campaign manager, said that “not much has changed other than that we remain in the lead and we feel really hopeful.”

“I wouldn’t say that we are concerned at all,” Mundy said. “There are many tens of thousands ballots left to count. I feel really good about it.”

With the contest this close, there’s already talk about a recount. However, Arntz said that he would do a recount only if he thinks there’s a reason to suspect the results were unreliable and he hasn’t seen anything to warrant that.

Someone could request a recount, but would have to pay for it. Recounts could take on many forms, but a full recount would cost more than $1 million. The money is reimbursed only if the outcome of the contest changes as a result of the recount. A recount must be requested within five days of the election results being certified.

The department will continue counting ballots and providing daily updates through the weekend.

Arntz said that they will continue to count about 19,000 vote by mail ballots each day. He said they would begin processing the 14,000 provisional ballots they received early next week. He estimated more than 90 percent would end up being valid.

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