Official denies private meetings with Harris staffers

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris added 1,110 votes to her lead over Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley in the attorney general’s race on Monday, increasing her advantage to 15,199.

Harris, a Democrat, added 5,900 votes, while Cooley, a Republican, added 4,790 in today’s count of vote-by-mail, provisional and damaged ballots, according to figures released by the Secretary of State’s Office.

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Harris leads with 4,100,656 votes to Cooley’s 4,085,457, or 45.9 percent versus 45.7 percent. She had held a 14,089-vote lead entering today’s count.

An official with the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office today denied an allegation by Cooley’s camp that it conducted private meetings regarding ballot counting with members of the Harris staff, of which the Cooley election monitors were unaware and were not invited to participate until they raised questions.

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Efrain Escobedo, executive liaison for the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office, told City News Service that what the Cooley campaign characterized as a private meeting was showing one representative of the Harris camp a tray of provisional ballots that were ruled to be “no count” ballots and providing an estimate of the number of such ballots.

“There have been no private meetings,” Escobedo said. “It is not this office’s track record, nor practice, to hold any type of private meeting with anybody. We are a public institution and we try to provide the public with whatever information is available to them.”

On Sunday, Ace Smith, Harris’ chief strategist, claimed “recent developments in Los Angeles County have made it abundantly clear that Steve Cooley’s campaign is attempting to disqualify as many provisional ballots as possible” and called on the Cooley campaign to “immediately cease any tactics designed to disenfranchise voters.”

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Kevin Spillane, a senior consultant with the Cooley campaign, called Smith’s comments “typical campaign hyperbole and not supported by the facts.”

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