California congressional race to replace Anna Eshoo heads toward a recount after a primary tie

It started with an unlikely secondplace tie at 30,249 votes each, putting three Democrats on track to go head-to-head-to-head in the November election.

It looked unlikely to experts that California’s 16th Congressional District primary would move toward a recount, given the hefty price tag and apparent lack of motive.

Despite the apparent improbability, a voter has requested a recount, casting a three-person general election race into uncertainty.

Now, the San Francisco Bay Area district will sift again through thousands of ballots, upping the possibility that one of the candidates who tied for second place — Evan Low and Joe Simitian — will have their general election prospects slashed.

California voter Jonathan Padilla requested a recount, a Santa Clara official confirmed. Padilla is a former staffer for a previous campaign of front-runner Sam Liccardo, the former mayor of San Jose — a fact that his competitor Low was quick to pounce on.

“This is a page right out of Trump’s political playbook using dirty tricks to attack democracy and subvert the will of the voters. Sam Liccardo, who does not live in the district, did not file a recount himself,” the campaign’s statement said. “Instead, he had his former staffer do it for him. What’s he afraid of?”

Padilla confirmed that he worked for Liccardo’s campaign about 10 years ago, pointing to his LinkedIn account, which shows that he was the policy and finance director for Liccardo’s 2014 run for San Jose’s mayor. Padilla also donated to Liccardo’s campaign in December, he confirmed.

Both Padilla and the Liccardo campaign denied that they are in contact.

A member of the Liccardo campaign said Liccardo’s campaign was not in coordination with Padilla about requesting the recount and that the former mayor and his campaign have not been in touch with Padilla since he requested the recount.

Padilla, likewise, said he is not in touch with the campaign or Liccardo.

Reached for comment, Padilla referred NBC News to his post Wednesday on X, which he said would be his only public comment “until all the votes are counted.”

Like Low, Padilla invoked former President Donald Trump in his statement.

“Donald Trump represents an existential threat to democracy and believes in not counting votes, as we saw on election night in 2020,” Padilla said in Wednesday’s post. “Why other Democrats don’t believe in counting votes and ensuring that the will of the people is transparently reflected confuses me.”

He added that he found it “especially confusing” that people who have criticized the recount “have themselves advocated for automatic recounts in the past.”

Simitian, a Santa Clara County supervisor, said in a statement that the process “will work itself out.”

“My job is to stay focused on how I can best represent the folks in our district,” he said. “And that’s what I’m doing.”

Both second-place candidates initially celebrated their expected move to the general election.

Liccardo campaign spokesperson Orrin Evans said in a statement that “every vote should be counted.”

“We understand why, under these extraordinary circumstances, there would be an effort to make sure these votes are fully considered,” he said, pointing to ballots with signature verification issues.

The heavily Democratic district is represented by Rep. Anna Eshoo, who is not seeking re-election.

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