(CNN) – Democratic Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn has advanced to a July 12 special runoff election to replace former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman in Congress, according to unofficial vote returns from a special election held Tuesday.
Her opponent will either be Republican businessman Craig Huey or California's Democratic Secretary of State Debra Bowen.
Huey's current second-place showing in a district where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by almost two-to-one can largely be attributed to a split Democratic vote between Hahn, Bowen, and Democratic activist Marcy Winograd, who garnered 9.5 percent of the vote.
As of Wednesday morning, Huey lead Bowen by 206 votes for the second spot in the July runoff, with provisional, vote-by-mail, and damaged ballots yet to be counted. Local elections officials have until May 24 to send final election results to the state.
Though trailing, Bowen has not conceded the race, citing the narrow margin and the large number of remaining untabulated ballots.
"This has been a very spirited campaign and it remains very close. There are 9,811 ballots that still need to be processed – more than enough to make up the difference. We are confident Debra Bowen will be in the runoff," said Bowen campaign manager Dan Chavez in a written statement Wednesday.
In accordance with state law, all candidates in the special election, regardless of party, ran on the same primary ballot. Since no candidate received a majority of the vote, the top two vote-getters advance to the special runoff election.
California's 36th congressional district, located entirely within Los Angeles County, is reliably Democratic. President Obama carried the district with 64.4 percent in 2008. Democrats John Kerry and Al Gore each won here with just under 60 percent of the vote in 2004 and 2000, respectively. Democratic candidates in Tuesday's special election received a combined 56.7 percent of the vote as of Wednesday morning, compared to 40.9 percent for Republican candidates.
Nonetheless, the seat is not always a lock for Democrats. Republican Steve Kuykendall won the seat for one term in 1998, when Harman left Congress after a failed gubernatorial bid. The candidate he defeated narrowly that year – Janice Hahn, the top vote-getter in Tuesday's election. Kuykendall lost narrowly two years later when Harman reclaimed her old seat.
Harman held the seat since then by comfortable margins. She resigned in February to head the Woodrow Wilson Institute.