Kristin Olsen held the lead in a field of six Republican candidates hoping to follow Tom Berryhill in the 25th state Assembly District. She declared victory on her Facebook page.
At 10 p.m. Tuesday, the Modesto city councilwoman said she was waiting for more results from the six counties where votes were cast.
"We feel good so far," Olsen said. "We have worked hard during the campaign getting to know the voters in the 25th District. I look forward to working hard after the election, if the people decide to elect me as their next Assembly member."
But about 11 p.m. she claimed victory on Facebook.
"Hurray! We've done it," she said. "Thanks everyone for your support. I look forward to working hard on your behalf in the State Assembly."
By early today, Olsen held a sizable lead with 8,321 votes or 28 percent, followed by Bill Conrad with 6,119 or 21 percent, Janice Keating with 6,063 or 20 percent, Kurt Vander Weide with 4,710 or 16 percent and Teri Murrison with 2,914 or 10 percent.
Riverbank City Councilman Jesse James White trailed the field with 1,545 or 5 percent.
Olsen, in her second term on the Modesto City Council, often has questioned city spending. She is regarded as a skilled communicator and has previous experience in Sacramento.
She was a legislative aide to Republican state Sen. Tim Leslie in the 1990s. She said during an interview that she was involved with moving bills through the legislative process.
Much of the pre-election spotlight fell on White, a 21-year-old Riverbank councilman who is facing potential drug possession charges. He was arrested May 14 when a probation search of his home turned up small amounts of cocaine and marijuana.
Five of the contestants are present or former members of city councils in Stanislaus County; Murrison is a Tuolumne County supervisor.
Because no Democrat filed for the seat, the winner of the GOP primary is assured to take office. Berryhill, a two-term incumbent, is attempting to replace Dave Cogdill in the 14th Senate District.
Olsen and Keating, a former Modesto councilwoman, raised the most campaign cash and were expected to divide votes from Modesto. But Conrad, a former Modesto councilman, also put in a strong showing in his second bid in the 25th District.
He ran second to Berryhill in the 2006 primary and had failed congressional attempts in 1996 and 2003.
A little more than 40 percent of the district's 237,000 registered voters are Republicans. The district includes east Modesto and eastern Stanislaus County, part of Madera County and all of Tuolumne, Calaveras, Mariposa and Mono counties.
During the campaign, there were only subtle differences in political ideology among the GOP candidates.
In addition to local government service, Vander Weide, a former Turlock councilman, claimed additional government experience. He worked for two of the 25th District's previous officeholders and works for Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2321.