SACRAMENTO – Democratic gubernatorial contenders Phil Angelides and Steve Westly were locked in a tight battle for votes into the early morning today, as Angelides declared victory and Westly declined to concede the hard-fought race. “Our lead continues to grow and I’m confident that I’ll be hitting the road first thing (this) morning as the Democratic nominee for governor of the state of California,” Angelides, the state treasurer, told supporters in Sacramento shortly after 12:30 a.m. As Angelides spoke, Westly’s campaign had closed up its election night party, with the controller saying the race seemed too close to call. “We’ve run a terrific campaign and we’re going to be running a good campaign for another day or two, it looks like,” Westly told his supporters in downtown Los Angeles. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2He added that many of the counties that he felt would vote his way had yet to be counted, and noted that in his successful race for controller four years ago he was down by five points by the same time on election night. Tuesday’s low-turnout primary followed a contentious and expensive campaign During the campaign, Angelides emerged as the favorite of liberal party insiders, with his pledges to raise taxes on the wealthy and increase education spending. Westly reached deep into his own pockets for an expensive campaign that portrayed himself as a centrist outsider who could do a better job of managing the state than Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mud-slinging dominated the campaign’s closing weeks, which likely turned off voters and helped account for the low turnout. Political analysts said the low turnout helped Angelides, who drew support from the hard-core party activists and union members who are most dedicated to campaigning and voting. “Phil Angelides benefited from 30 years of working in the Democratic vineyards,” said Tim Hodson, executive director of the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento. “In a low-turnout election, the candidate with the best ground operation, the best get-out-the-vote operation benefits.” Angelides was leading by three to four points in the early returns, but significant numbers had yet to be counted, with several counties reporting delays. Both candidates took the stage at their election night parties shortly after 11 p.m. to thank supporters and warn them about what could be a long night, or a full day or more before the results are certain. The vote followed a campaign in which the two candidates and their supporters spent more than $70 million, including almost $33 million out of Controller Westly’s own pockets. In the closing weeks of the race, the ads turned nasty, with Westly accusing Angelides of polluting the environment when he was a developer and Angelides attacking the controller over the source of some of his campaign contributions and at one time being an ally of Schwarzenegger. The negative tone and the similarities of the two Democrats led to record numbers of undecided voters in the days before the vote, and a potentially record low voter turnout Tuesday. The past record for low turnout in a gubernatorial primary was 34.6 percent in 2002. While Secretary of State Bruce McPherson had predicted this year’s turnout at 38 percent, the Field Poll projected it could go as low as 34 percent. Voter turnout in Los Angeles County was 34.3 percent, the second-lowest turnout in the past eight years since 25.9 percent in 2002. Political experts attributed the low turnout to several factors, including the lack of a competitive Republican gubernatorial primary, only two measures on the ballot, the high number of undecided voters, the negative tone of the campaign, voter fatigue from facing seven statewide elections in the last four years and the similarities of the two Democratic candidates. “Part of the reason is these candidates do not excite, do not energize,” said political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe of the University of Southern California. “Their message, if you can find it, doesn’t appear to be resonating with many voters. There is a charisma deficit.” As turnout figures trickled in, there were sporadic reports of polling and counting problems in various counties, in part due to new federal requirements for voting technology. In Alameda County, for example, which has about 5.7 percent of the state’s Democrats, some 4,000 touch-screen voting machines failed to meet federal and state standards, meaning results were delayed because of a shortage of optical scanners to read the ballots. The lack of voter enthusiasm was reflected at polling locations throughout the state Tuesday. Volunteers at the Pierce College poll in Woodland Hills passed the time by eating and reading – and mostly waiting for voters to show up. “I thought it was going to be busier, lines out the door,” said poll worker Michael Brook, 18. “Nobody has ever had to wait.” They said turnout was light, with a mere 56 people – mostly older citizens – voting as of 6 p.m. “This is really low,” said Ellen Trumpeler, on-site election inspector, adding that she was hoping for a last-minute rush before the polls closed. “I was thinking around 150 people would show up. This is about one-third what I anticipated.” Ziv Kozaski, 43, of Woodland Hills was among the few to stop by his voting precinct Tuesday night. He was joined by his wife, Shelly. “It’s my patriotic duty,” he said minutes after casting his vote. “Some people just don’t care. I don’t know why. There should be no reason not to vote.” At The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Woodland Hills, Candice Moore, 25, said she didn’t feel compelled to vote. “I’ve given up on the process,” she said. Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger is wasting no time preparing for the fall campaign. He is embarking on a multi-day bus tour of the state this week, starting with four stops in Northern California today. Those include talking to restaurant patrons in Chico and Samoa, chatting with players and fans at a ballpark in Auburn and hosting a town hall meeting in Redding. During the governor’s “Protecting the California Dream tour” he is expected to focus on his own record and his goals for a second term rather than start off attacking his Democratic opponent right away. He will talk about creating almost 600,000 new jobs, reducing workers’ compensation rates and working with Democrats in the Legislature to get an infrastructure bond package on the November ballot. “I’m really enthusiastically looking forward to this campaign, and the reason is because we have a great record to compare with anyone else,” Schwarzenegger said Tuesday during his Cabinet meeting. “I think that we have really moved the state forward, and we are very well on our way to bringing the state back to where it ought to be.” Angelides and Westly were actually two of eight Democratic candidates for the gubernatorial nomination. Similarly, on the Republican side, Schwarzenegger faced three challengers, but none were seen as serious challenges. Staff Writer Angie Valencia-Martinez contributed to this report. [email protected] (916) 446-6723160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!