Election 2018: Primary mix of close races, decisive results
By Paul Myers
Tulare County voters decide DA on election night; 26 Calif. Assembly District too close to call
TULARE COUNTY – Last week’s election night results left a great many candidates taking down their campaign signs, others putting more up and a few still anxiously awaiting the outcome. With over a week gone by since last Tuesday’s election night, votes are still being counted to decide some of the closest races, while others have since been decided.
Calif. 26 Assembly seat
Incumbent, 26th Assem. District
The California 26 was one of the most contested seats in the race in Tulare County heading into Tuesday night’s primary, and it has not be decided yet. As of Monday, June 11, the top two candidates were incumbent Devon Mathis and challenger Jose Sigala with only 402 votes between them. But challenger, and mayor of Visalia, Warren Gubler was only 310 votes away from topping Sigala for second place, and 712 votes away from topping Mathis for first. Gubler had pulled ahead in the vote tally just prior to the weekend when he led Sigala, a Tulare councilman, by a mere 12 votes.
After election night the top three candidates were separated by a mere 516 votes. Mathis led with 30.16% of the vote, Sigala with 29.59% and Gubler with 28.70%. In a far and away fourth place finish was Jack Laver, a rancher from Kern County who has never held public office at any level. He managed only 11.56% of the vote after the June 5 primary and 12.2% as of Monday.
The California 26th Assembly District encompasses all of Inyo County, almost 2% of Kern County and almost all of Tulare County. As of the Tulare County Elections Office’s fourth post-election results report Mathis leads all candidates in the race in Tulare County with 11,972 votes amounting 31.11% of the vote. However Gubler is only 191 votes away from tying Mathis, while Sigala is 814 votes behind Gubler for second place in the County.
Tulare City Councilman
Canvassing will continue throughout the month, but determining who will be in the runoff in November is still too close to call.
Tulare County DA
District Attorney Tim Ward will be serving at least four more years in his current seat as top prosecutor for the County. The final report from the elections office on June 5 revealed Ward had an insurmountable lead over challenger Matt Darby, the deputy district attorney from Kings County. Darby managed to gather a third of the vote with 33.05% at the end of the night while Ward coasted to victory with the remaining two thirds of the vote at 66.66%. The Tulare County elections office’s fourth post-election results report showed Ward comfortably ahead by about the same margin.
California 22nd Congressional District
Congressman Devin Nunes easily moved on to the runoff in November with 58.06% of the vote as of Saturday, June 9 leaving his democratic challenger and Fresno County prosecutor Andrew Janz in second with 31.88%. This level of separation is not out of the norm for Nunes in the safely republican 22 Congressional District. Nunes has put together decisive wins over the last three election cycles, crushing opponent by double digit margins.
In 2012 democrat Otto Lee pulled in 38.1% of the vote while Nunes trounced him with 62%. Results only got worse for democrats in 2014 when Nunes defeated Suzanna Aguilera-Marrero 72% to 28%. Things were not much better for democrats two years later when democrat Louie Campos lost to Nunes 32.4% to 67.6%.
Janz has run an aggressive campaign against Nunes. Janz has pointed specifically to the controversy to surrounds his national profile as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee specifically pointing to his handling of the Russia Investigation. Janz also makes a regular point of Nunes’ absence in the 22nd Congressional District, pointing out his lack of town hall meetings instead opting to hold water forums and answering calls on KMJ.
State Senate Seats
Incumbent Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) is well on his way to returning to State Senate District 14 seat, which includes portions of Tulare, Kings, Kern and Fresno Counties. Vidak is being challenged by three Democratic candidates from small towns, none of whom were endorsed by the California Democratic Party. Sanger City Councilwoman Melissa Hurtado finished election night with 22.83% of the vote. Two Tulare County candidates for District 14 will likely be left out of the runoff in November. Earlimart School Board member Abigail Solis earned 14.1% of the vote. Farmersville native and president of the Latino Democrats of Tulare County Ruben Macareno finished with just 7.8% of the vote. This is Macareno’s fifth attempt at public office. He pulled out of the District 1 Supervisor race in 2004, failed to quality for the District 4 ballot in 2010 and spearheaded a failed effort to recall then District 3 Supervisor Phil Cox. Macareno unsuccessfully ran for the District 26 Assembly seat in 2014 and 2016. He qualified for a runoff against incumbent Devon Mathis in 2016 but only garnered 30% of the vote that November. None of the candidates have been eliminated from the November runoff with about 57% of the votes still to be counted. Less than 7,000 votes separate Hurtado, Solis and Macareno with an estimated 55,000 votes outstanding.
Republican Shannon Grove is leading a three-way race for State Senate District 16 which encompasses portions of Tulare, Kern and San Bernardino Counties. The incumbent, Sen. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield), is not running as the former state Senate Minority Leader terms out this year after eight years in the California State Senate. Grove, a fellow Bakersfield resident, will move on to November with 60% of the vote. Democrat Ruth Musser-Lopez of Needles, Calif. is currently in second place with 28.16% of the vote. Musser-Lopez, a former city councilmember and archaeologist, qualified for a runoff against Fuller in 2014 but lost with just 27% of the vote. Gregory Tatum, who unsuccessfully ran for Bakersfield’s mayor in 2016, ended election night with 12% of the vote. It is still too early to call the race with an estimated 67,000 votes left to be counted across the three counties.
Ivy League-educated but grass roots driven Eddie Valero finished with more than half of the votes in a three-person race for the District 4 seat on the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. He will face Dr. Kuldip Thusu in a runoff election in November. Thusu, not a medical doctor but has a doctorate in experimental medicine, seemed to have the advantage heading into the primary as a sitting city councilmember in the district’s largest city in Dinuba. But Valero’s rise to frontrunner status may not be as surprising as some think. In the June 2014 primary, District 4 voters in unincorporated communities, such as Valero’s hometown of Cutler-Orosi, represented 55% of voter registration, had a higher voter turnout than any of the cities, and cast three times as many ballots as Dinuba.
With about 3,400 votes left to count, it is extremely unlikely that community activist Romelia Nina Castillo of Cutler-Orosi will be able to close the gap after garnering less than 12% of the vote.
Architect Dennis Townsend and former Porterville City Councilwoman Virginia Gurrola will face off in November for the District 5 seat on the Board of Supervisors. Townsend finished election night with more than 60% of the vote and Gurrola with just over one-third of the vote. The two are running to replace three-term Supervisor Mike Ennis, who did not seek re-election. Juan Figueroa, Jr. has been mathematically eliminated after garnering less than 4% of the vote.
Too Close to Call
Two of Tulare County’s top educators will likely see each other in the November election for the title of Tulare County Superintendent of Schools. Craig Wheaton, the current deputy county superintendent of schools, and Tim Hire, the current superintendent of Exeter Unified School District, finished in the top two spots with 45.33% and 38.47% of the vote, respectively. But there is an outside chance that longtime Tulare County educator Anthony Martin of Porterville could edge into the second spot. Martin trails by about 6,000 votes with an estimated 20,000 votes left to count.
In addition to Sheriff Mike Boudreaux and Auditor-Controller/Treasurer Tax Collector Cass Cook who were unopposed in the election, there were a few other county seats that can be called after election night. Roland Hill has been re-elected as the Assessor-Clerk/Recorder after defeating Bradley Stailey with two thirds of the vote.
Conway Trails as State Tax Collector
Career politician Connie Conway made a strong showing locally in her attempt to return to elected office. The former Minority Leader in the state legislature who started her career as a Tulare County Supervisor in 2000, dominated in Tulare County with 47.38% of the vote for the District 1 seat on the state Board of Equalization. She was less successful across the other 30 counties that comprise the district. Overall, Conway finished election night in third place, and out of a November runoff, with 18.5% of the vote, trailing Democrat Tom Hallinan (38.3%) and Republican Ted Gaines (32.8%). However, there is a mathematical chance that Conway could catch Gaines with more than 800,000 votes left to be counted.
No Dems for Gov.
While Gavin Newsom is the clear frontrunner for governor statewide, he didn’t even make the top three in Tulare County. Newsom finished election night with 14.58% of the vote behind two Republicans and one Democrat. John Cox, second statewide, was the frontrunner in Tulare County with 36.02% of the vote, followed by Travis Allen (20.58%) and Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa.
Props to the State
Tulare County voters shared statewide sentiments of ballot measures with the exception of Proposition 68. The $4.1 billion bond includes $1.5 billion to conserve natural habitats and address the effects of climate change; $1.3 billion for state and local parks and recreation projects; and $1.3 billion for various water-related projects, including flood protection, recharge and clean up groundwater, and to provide safe drinking water. Prop. 68 was winning statewide with 56% of the vote but losing locally with 41%, as more conservative voters are worried about the state’s debt. Propositions 69, 71 and 72 all passed with at least three-quarters of the vote. Proposition 70 was defeated with nearly two-thirds of Californians voting No.