Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen took a commanding early lead on election night over his challengers, former Deputy District Attorney Daniel Chung and county Public Defender Sajid Khan.
By 4:46 p.m. Wednesday, Rosen's lead held at 58.56% to Chung's 24.29% and Khan's 17.15%, with 71% of all ballots counted, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters website. The county plans to update its results on Friday by 5 p.m.
If Rosen's majority lead sticks, he will win the election outright without the need for the general election this fall. Voters select the top two candidates to face off in November unless one contender garners more than 50% of the votes and is thus declared the winner.
Voters appeared to be less interested in radical change on either end of the spectrum than in maintaining an even-handed status quo.
Rosen, 54, who has been county DA since 2011, ran on his record as a "pragmatic progressive" who has beefed up victims' services and created programs for defendants of low-level crimes to reduce recidivism.
He developed multiple specialized units to address specific problem areas of crime, including tackling an increase in serial burglaries and robberies and the recent spate of smash-and-grab retail burglaries, in addition to creating a major Crime and Drug Trafficking Unit that targets the fentanyl trade and organized crime.
If elected to a fourth term, Rosen said he would focus more on gun violence and keeping guns out of the hands of felons and individuals with domestic violence restraining orders.
Khan, 39, a public defender, is the son of Muslim immigrants who raised him and his siblings in Milpitas and San Jose. He ran on a big-picture reform platform of radical change and has said he would greatly reduce prosecutions by amping up special services programs to attack the root causes of crime.
He campaigned on making major shifts in how cases are prosecuted, starting with juveniles, who he would not prosecute as adults. He would work to end cash bail and seek to have records of most offenders expunged if they served their sentences. But his message of radical reform appears thus far not to have strongly resonated with voters.
Chung, 33, has been the self-proclaimed "moderate" candidate of the three. A former deputy district attorney, he was terminated by Rosen's office and ran against his former boss. He would focus on policy and structural changes within the DA's office to streamline prosecutions. He would assign the same prosecutor to handle all phases of a case rather than having multiple prosecutors involved at various stages
Chung's campaign also prioritized prosecuting serious, violent and repeat offenders and zealously prosecuting gun, retail and hate crimes.
Rosen's financial war chest is also exponentially larger than Chung's and Khan's. He had more than $445,000 to Khan's roughly $118,000 and Chung's more than $18,000.
In a statement, Rosen appeared to declare himself the winner.
"Santa Clara County leads the way in technology, diversity, and the smart and balanced way we strive to handle criminal justice. Today's vote once again shows there is a mandate for safety and fairness. Not one at the expense of the other but both," he said.
"Although I disagree with their political positions, I respect the Democratic principle of those who also ran for this vital job. I hope they continue to use their passion to help people.
"Public safety and criminal justice reform won today — smart justice won today. Now it's back to work. I look forward with determination to face our many 21st century challenges, including gun violence, hate crime, racial disproportionality, and property crime. From Palo Alto to Gilroy, we are bending the arc toward justice."
Chung said in an email that his campaign has exceeded all expectations.
"I am grateful for the extraordinary support from the community. To be in second place, despite the lack of money and endorsements, is a true testament to the community's belief in me and my values and priorities. My message clearly resonated with people, and they want significant change to improve public safety. I look forward to seeing the full election results and making sure that every vote is counted."
Khan said by phone that he is proud of his campaign.
"We ran a very value-based, authentic and principled campaign" that has shone a light on inequity, mass incarceration and the need for mental health and other services and reforms, he said.
"I'm still curious about what the rest of the night will look like," he said.
This story will be updated as more results become available.