In the race for the 21st Assembly District, the sole conservative candidate, Republican Jack Mobley, secured the most votes.
Heavily funded Democrat Adam Gray came in second.
As of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, the California Secretary of State's website had 81 percent of precincts reporting:
Mobley with 13,654 votes, or 45.2 percent.
Gray with 9,697 votes, or about 32.1 percent.
Lesa Rasmussen with 3,162 votes, or 10.5 percent.
Tommy Jones with 2,637 votes, or 8.7 percent.
Robert Sellers with 1,056 votes, or 3.5 percent.
Under the new open primary system, voters had the option to cast a ballot for any candidate regardless of political affiliation, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election.
Gray, who has raised more than $500,000 in campaign funds from both individual donors, unions and other sources, seemed unfazed by Mobley's strong showing.
"He's the lone Republican in the race, and he's taken up most of that base. We've done very well. It'll only get better in November," he said.
Mobley, who raised about $30,000 from individual donors, blasted Gray as a Democratic insider who doesn't represent the community.
"He's a nice guy but he's not local," Mobley said. "The people realize that. They want somebody local, not somebody who's been handpicked by Bay Area and Southern California politicians. He's got the dollars, and I have the people."
Gray dismissed claims that he's out of touch with local issues.
"I grew up in this community, I was raised here, my family has been here generations," he said. "If (the other candidates) want to talk about me rather than the issues and the needs of the community, that's fine. We're going to run a positive campaign and talk about education and jobs."
Coming in third place, small-business owner Rasmussen raised nearly $45,000. Although a Democrat, she endorsed Mobley for the seat.
"I don't think it's rocket science to figure out that the special interest groups in Sacramento have spent nearly three-quarters of a million dollars to send this young man (Gray) back home to take the seat," she said.
"Mr. Mobley and I are political opponents but not enemies. He's a local man with local interest who will represent the local priorities in Sacramento."
Jones, a former mayor of Los Banos, declined to endorse anyone. He explained his showing by saying, "I just didn't have the finances to run a good race."
The general election, scheduled for Nov. 6, is shaping up to be an interesting contest with Mob- ley and Gray diverging on major issues.
Gray has been a staunch supporter of high-speed rail, while Mobley has criticized the project as fiscally irresponsible.
Both have said they are dedicated to addressing economic concerns and unemployment.
But Mobley has said he will prioritize loosening regulations for businesses to try to fix the economy, while Gray has said UC Merced and education are the keys to improving the economy.
The predominantly Democratic district includes Merced County and the southwest section of Stanislaus County, including parts of Modesto.
Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.