Republican Dan Roberts emerged Tuesday as the second-place winner in the North Coast congressional race, edging Democrat Norman Solomon by 173 votes and earning a place in the November runoff.
The outcome had remained uncertain three weeks after the June 5 primary, largely due to a slow vote tally in Sonoma County.
The gap between Roberts and Solomon, 760 votes at the end of last week with more than 25,000 local votes uncounted, narrowed - but not enough for Solomon to take the lead.
The other five counties in the 2nd Congressional District completed their vote counts last week.
Sonoma County elections officials said Tuesday that fewer than 300 votes were uncounted and the results — although still unofficial — were unlikely to change.
Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, was first overall with 63,894 votes, followed by Roberts with 25,624 and Solomon with 25,451.
Solomon, an author/activist from Inverness, called Roberts on Tuesday to congratulate him.
"He was very gracious," said Roberts, a Tiburon securities broker. "He told me I could open the champagne."
Both men were political newcomers vying to replace Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, who is retiring after 20 years in Congress.
Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, the only legislative incumbent in the field of 12 candidates, finished first with 37.6 percent of the primary vote and is a strong favorite to beat Roberts in the November general election.
Democrats account for nearly 50 percent of the district's registered voters, compared with 22.5 percent for Republicans and 21.6 percent for independents.
"It's a bit of a reach," Roberts said. "The math will tell you I can't win with just Republicans and independents alone. I need 3 to 5 percent of the Democrats to come my way."
Roberts said he already has made overtures to unnamed Democrats to join a multi-party coalition like the one that supported former Marin Assemblyman Bill Filante.
Filante, a Republican, beat Democrats in the Marin-Sonoma Assembly district seven times from 1978-90, but lost to Woolsey in the 1992 congressional race as a fatal brain tumor kept him from campaigning.
Roberts, who loaned his primary campaign $160,000, said he will be at a financial disadvantage against Huffman, who raised more than $1 million.
Noting that Huffman ran largely on his record of legislative achievements in Sacramento, Roberts said he, too, will run on Huffman's record.
"It's not a one-sided story," he said.
Roberts said he will take a break in July and resume campaigning in August by putting up the same signs and banners his allies have taken down since June 5.
"I got in this to win, not finish second in June," he said.
Solomon expressed thanks to his campaign volunteers and more than 7,000 donors.
"I'm certain the political energies that galvanized and fueled our campaign will strengthen future movements for social change," he said in a statement.