By Jim Miller and David Siders
Published: Friday, Jul. 18, 2014 – 11:08 pm

Assemblyman John A. Pérez abandoned his recount in the California controller’s race Friday, ending an effort to overcome a narrow third-place finish after picking up only a handful of votes amid increasing impatience from Democratic activists and others worried about its impact on the fall election.

Perez called off the recount a week after it started. Election workers had finished hand recounts in less than a tenth of the more than 4,100 precincts in 15 counties listed in Pérez’s July 6 filing for what would have been the largest recount in state history.

“While I strongly believe that completing this process would result in me advancing to the General Election, it is clear that there are significant deficiencies in the process itself which make continuing the recount problematic,” Pérez said in a statement Friday. “Even in the effort so far, we have found uncounted ballots, but there is simply not enough time to see this process through to the end, given the fact that counties must begin printing ballots in the next few weeks in order to ensure that overseas and military voters can receive their ballots in a timely manner.”

Pérez, D-Los Angeles, finished 481 votes behind Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, also a Democrat, for second place and a slot in the Nov. 4 general election against Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican who finished first in the balloting.

The margin between Pérez and Yee, one-hundredth of 1 percent of more than 4 million votes cast, was among the closest finishes of any statewide election in the United States since 2000. The recount highlighted shortcomings in California’s recount laws, which allow candidates to demand recounts in precincts of their choosing, and then allow others to counter any gains with recounts of their own. The Yee campaign accused Perez of “cherry-picking” favorable precincts and readied litigation in case Pérez took the lead.

Although Pérez is responsible for paying the counties’ costs of the recount, Yee campaign officials said the exercise cost Yee’s underfunded primary campaign between $70,000 and $80,000 in legal fees, observers and other costs. The uncertainty about which Democrat would face Swearengin also hindered Yee’s ability to raise money for the general election.

On Friday, both sides tried to put months of hard feelings behind them. Pérez called Yee and pledged his full support. And in a statement, Yee thanked Pérez for “doing the right thing in recognizing that the recount was unlikely to reverse the outcome of the election.”

“Now we can move forward, united for the November general election. John Pérez is an outstanding leader who has played an important role in helping to put California back on sound fiscal footing,” she said. “I deeply appreciate his support.”

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