Jose Moreno, who is challenging Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman for his seat, caught up to the incumbent Friday as vote counting continued in the neck-and-neck race that will likely determine the balance of power on the council.

At the end of the day Friday, both candidates for the 3rd district seat had 4,370 votes, according to the daily update from the Orange County Registrar of Voters.  It was unknown how many votes in that race are still to be counted,  although Registrar Neal Kelley indicated the counting could be finished as early as Saturday.

When the polls closed Nov. 8, Moreno trailed Brandman by 268 votes, but that slight edge quickly began to erode with the counting of vote-by-mail ballots delivered on Election Day and provisional ballots.

In another close Anaheim race, Denise Barnes’s lead over Steven Chavez Lodge in the battle for the 1st district seat continued to increase inch by inch, growing from 254 votes on Thursday to 270 at the end of the day Friday. Barnes now has 3,493 votes to Chavez’ 3,223.

Wins by both Moreno and Barnes could alter the power base of the City Council. As things stand now, the council’s three-member majority is allied with Disney and the business establishment, while Mayor Tom Tait and Councilman James Vanderbilt are a vocal minority advocating against business subsidies and for more budget dollars going toward the city’s underserved communities.

If Moreno and Barnes are elected, the Tait faction would hold a four-vote majority.

This new reality is thanks to a 2014 settlement of a Voting Rights Act case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. Beginning this election, the Anaheim City Council is elected by district and has expanded from five to seven seats.

As Brandman’s lead has shrunk, the tension has increased and the tactics have changed inside the Registrar’s office. Challenges to provisional ballots (presumably by Brandman’s people because those ballots have skewed toward Moreno) skyrocketed to nearly 200 on Thursday, Kelley confirmed.

But Kelley said he determined only three of those ballots should be disqualified. “I stay out of the political stuff,” Kelley said. “I’m the umpire.”

You can contact Tracy Wood at twood@voiceofoc.org and follow her on Twitter: @TracyVOC.

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