BURLINGAME -- Most of the 19 contested city council and school board races in San Mateo County were settled late Tuesday night, but a spot on the Burlingame City Council still hangs in the balance as elections officials sort through a pile of remaining ballots.
Former Councilman Russ Cohen trailed by just 10 votes in his bid to rejoin the council, according to Tuesday's final unofficial returns, which placed Cohen fourth in a nine-person race for three seats. Mayor Ann Keighran and Councilman Michael Brownrigg came in first and second, respectively, while challenger Ricardo Ortiz was hanging onto third place.
Cohen, who serves as executive director of the Palo Alto Downtown Business and Professional Association, said Wednesday he is not ready to concede.
"I think there's still plenty of ballots to be counted," said Cohen, adding he had expected a close race. "Certainly it's closer than I thought it would be. A little too close for comfort, I'd say."
The San Mateo County Elections Office did not provide an estimate Wednesday of how many provisional ballots, including mail ballots that voters dropped off at polling locations, remain to be counted in coming days. Turnout in the election was low, only 20.3 percent, though that figure will climb slightly once all the ballots are counted.
The only other major race that is too close to call involves the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District. Charles "Chuck" Velschow, the lone incumbent in the campaign, took first with ease, followed by Suvarna Bhopale. But Amy Koo was leading Herbert Neuman for the third seat by just 21 votes.
There was no doubt about the race in San Mateo, where Joe Goethals joined the council as a first-time candidate. Goethals, who grew up in San Mateo as the eldest of five children, credited the victory to his deep local roots and steady campaigning.
"We walked and walked," said Goethals, 36, "and probably knocked on over 6,000 doors in every neighborhood in San Mateo."
Goethals' friend and fellow Alameda County prosecutor, Mayor David Lim, finished first in the race for three council spots. Deputy Mayor Robert Ross placed second, followed by Goethals in third.
Belmont will have two new faces on its council. Biotech manager Eric Reed, attorney Charles Stone and incumbent Vice Mayor Warren Lieberman took the top spots in a crowded competition for three positions.
Voters approved seven out of nine city and school funding measures on Tuesday's ballot. The losers were Measure P, a $130 million bond measure proposed by the San Mateo-Foster City School District, and Measure V, which would have expanded Pacifica's utility users tax to include telecommunications.