REDLANDS, Calif. (6/9/14)--Democratic congressional candidate and former credit union vice president Pete Aguilar is moving closer to the second spot on the California ballot to represent the state's 31st District.
According to the information released Thursday evening, Aguilar holds a 183-vote lead over Republican Lesli Gooch for a chance to face Republican Paul Chabot in November for the seat currently held by retiring Rep. Gary Miller (R).
In California's new "jungle primary" system, the top two primary finishers will face off in the general election, regardless of party. Chabot, the top finisher, received 26.8% of the vote.
As of Thursday evening Aguilar had received 17.35% of the vote to Gooch's 17%, a difference of 183 votes. Observers estimated there are between 1,700 and 2,400 additional ballots to be counted, likely split among the seven candidates in the primary. The Los Angeles Times, Roll Call and Politico have all reported that Aguilar will take the second spot on the ballot.
Aguilar released a statement Thursday night declaring victory, saying he was "honored that Inland Empire families have given me the chance to move on to the November election and ultimately represent them in Congress."
The California Credit Union League and the Credit Union Legislative Action Council heavily supported Aguilar's bid, and are expected to do so through November. CULAC contributed $10,000 directly to Aguilar's campaign, and financed a $198,000 independent expenditure, which was used for direct mail, digital ads, Pandora radio spots and a website.
"We're proud to support Pete Aguilar," said Trey Hawkins, Credit Union National Association vice president of political affairs. "We believe his background working at a credit union, and hence understanding of the unique role credit unions play in their communities, will give him unique insight into the challenges faced by the working families of California's Inland Empire."
Aguilar was previously the vice president of Arrowhead CU, with $820 million in assets and based in San Bernardino, Calif. He is currently the mayor of Redlands, Calif.
Gooch has not conceded, but fourth-place finisher Eloise Gomez Reyes, who finished 758 votes behind Aguilar, has conceded and endorsed Aguilar.
The results will not become official until July 1, and a recount can be called for within five days.