IRVINE, Calif. – Voters in Southern California's heavily Republican Orange County split their support enough in Tuesday's special election for the nation's only vacant House seat to force the GOP-backed favorite into a December runoff.
State Sen.John Campbell (search), who was endorsed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search), will face the top vote-getters from four other parties in the runoff.
Campbell had 46 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting, just short of the majority required to avoid a runoff. The next-closest finisher, moderate Republican Marilyn Brewer (search), was eliminated from the race with 17 percent.
Third-party candidate Jim Gilchrist (search), co-founder of the Minuteman Project (search) that has organized volunteer patrols along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigrants, had 14 percent. Steve Young (search), a Democrat, finished with 9 percent.
Both candidates advanced to the runoff.
Campbell is still likely to win the seat relinquished by former Rep. Christopher Cox (search), a conservative Republican who left after 16 years in office to become chief of the Securities and Exchange Commission (search). The combined vote Tuesday for the four candidates Campbell will face on Dec. 6 was just 25 percent.
"I am obviously very pleased and I'm also very pleased by the margin of the victory," Campbell said. "I think that kind of says where we are."
Campbell was considered the favorite heading into the election, but Brewer, a former state Assemblywoman, had hoped to surprise him by assembling a coalition of moderate Republicans, Democrats and independents. There were 17 candidates vying for the seat.
In other races around the country Tuesday:
— In Albuquerque, N.M., Mayor Martin Chavez (search) became the first incumbent ever re-elected in city history, while an effort to increase the minimum wage to $7.50 an hour from the current $5.15 narrowly failed.
— In Cleveland, first-term Mayor Jane Campbell (search) and City Council President Frank Jackson (search) advanced to the Nov. 8 mayoral election after beating a field of five fellow Democrats and a Republican in a nonpartisan primary. Jackson was the top finisher with 19,873 votes. Campbell was next with 15,374 votes, according to unofficial returns.
Jackson has support from the city's business community and has complained the city isn't as safe under Campbell. The city's first female mayor was hurt by a tough economy that contributed to police, fire and teacher layoffs.
In the Orange County congressional race, Gilchrist managed to siphon off support for Campbell among GOP conservatives who liked his hardline views on illegal immigration.
Julian Cangelosi, 69, said he and his wife initially planned to vote for Campbell, but changed their minds just days ago because they felt he was too soft on the issue. He said they voted for Gilchrist instead.
"He's got the strongest stance on the open border issue, and that's what's going to kill this country," Cangelosi said. "Campbell is OK, but Gilchrist is a one-issue person."
Young had not been given much of a chance since only 27 percent of the district's voters are Democrats.
The seat came open when Cox, of Newport Beach, was tapped by Bush to head the SEC.
Twenty percent of registered voters turned out Tuesday, with nearly 48,000 casting absentee ballots. Elections officials still had several hundred absentee and provisional ballots to count Wednesday, said Brett Rowley, spokesman for the Orange County Registrar of Voters.
Because the race fell on Rosh Hashana (search), the Jewish New Year, Orange County election officials hurriedly organized five days of early balloting at nine locations, including four synagogues.