SAN DIEGO -- Republican Carl DeMaio appeared to score a narrow victory over Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, to claim the congressional seat, but it was unclear how many provisional or late ballots remained to be tallied Wednesday, and whether they might affect the outcome.
The final unofficial tally from Tuesday's election showed DeMaio with 72,431 votes, compared to 71,679 for Peters -- a difference of 752 votes.
The San Diego County Registrar's Office predicted about 180,000 mail-in and provisional ballots still needed to be counted as of noon Wednesday. They were expecting to release an updated tally Thursday evening.
Of those, an estimated 46,000 are for the 52nd Congressional District.
Registrar workers spent Wednesday sorting the ballots and will begin to verify Thursday, but it could be weeks before they know who won. By law, the registrar's office has 28 days to verify the race.
The registrar has 28 days to count and verify all the ballots. At that point, if either candidate wants to see a recount they have five days to make a request.
Peters expressed optimism despite being slightly behind in the race.
In a statement released Wednesday, he said he is "optimistic that when all the votes come back in, I will join the 114th Congress in January."
"If the outstanding ballots favor us at the same rate as election day ballots, we will win," his statement read. "In 2012, the later counts were better than election day...But given the disappointingly soft turnout yesterday, we won't expect any miracles."
Carl DeMaio made a brief appearance early Wednesday morning and said he too is optimistic and vows to make every vote count.
“I got a call telling me I should report to D.C. for freshman orientation,” DeMaio said.
The race captured national attention thanks to allegations of sexual misconduct, an office break-in, heavy outside financial contributions and a flood of mudslinging advertising. DeMaio and Peters are both former members of the San Diego City Council.
DeMaio has had to ward off allegations of sexual misconduct by two former staffers -- the second of whom went public only a few days ago. His campaign office was also vandalized earlier this year.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis declined to file charges regarding the first instance of alleged sexual harassment or the vandalism. She cited insufficient evidence in each case.
DeMaio told supporters that, like other Americans, San Diegans are “sick of the division and dysfunction in Washington.''
Regarding the accusations of recent months, he said voters want “less fighting and more fixing,'' and “they don't want smears, they want solutions.''
Peters first claimed the 52nd Congressional District two years ago, unseating Republican Brian Bilbray in an election that took several days of counting to decide.
In comments to Democratic supporters, he acknowledged national election losses for his party.
“We're going to continue to lead from California and work to do those things that we think are important -- job creation, standing up for women's rights to make their own healthcare decisions, making sure you can marry who you love and not get fired for who you are, and stand up for our veterans who stood up for us,'' Peters said.
In other congressional races, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, and Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, were all returned to the nation's capital.