Riverside County, in June 9 initial reporting, showed the lowest voter turnout (16.52 percent) in the state for the June 8 election. But as over 100,000 ballots not counted in initial published tallies began to be counted, overall turnout rose to 20.71 percent by the morning of June 11, with 72,000 ballots still to be counted. In the county and state, most results came in as expected with the notable exception of the apparent upset by Judge Paul Zellerbach of first term Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco. June 9 tallies had Zellerbach defeating Pacheco by a relatively comfortable margin of 52.8 percent to 47.2. By the morning of June 11 that spread had narrowed slightly to 52.12 to 47.39 but it appeared that the remaining uncounted ballots would not overturn the result.
Zellerbach’s victory was unanticipated. His campaign was not as heavily funded as incumbent Pacheco’s, owing to a limited time he had to raise funds. Zellerbach took a leave of absence from his duties as judge to make the run and could only begin raising funds in February when his leave of absence became effective. Although there is an outside chance that currently uncounted ballots could change the result, Zellerbach is preparing his transition. Pacheco believed his “tough on crime” message would carry him to victory. Voters apparently looked for a broader vision for county justice administration, which a majority said Zellerbach offered.
In his race for State Senate District 36, Third District Supervisor Jeff Stone came up short against current Assemblyman Joel Anderson (AD 77). The 36th takes in Murrieta and Temecula in Riverside County where Stone is well known but the district is mostly comprised of a large swath of San Diego County where Anderson is better known because of congruencies between AD 77 and SD 36. Geography further complicated Stone’s chances because another candidate, Kenneth C. Dickson, is from Murrieta, Riverside County neighbor of Temecula, Stone’s hometown. Although Stone handily carried the Riverside County section of SD 36, 47.8 percent to Dickson’s 24.36 and Anderson’s 18.97 percent, he lost the full district 30.2 percent to Anderson’s 40.4 and Dickson’s 20 percent. Had Dickson not run, it is possible Stone could have defeated Anderson, since the aggregate of their vote totals would have beaten Anderson by a significant margin.
In other races, current Assemblyman Brian Nestande (AD 64) cruised to victory with 76 percent of the vote against Jeffrey Tahir; appointed Sheriff Stan Sniff soundly defeated retired Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Frank Robles 63.28 to 36.72 percent; John J. Benoit was elected to a full term as Fourth District County Supervisor over challenger Gary Jeandron by a margin of 55.86 to 44.14 percent; and Republican Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack easily outdistanced challenger Clayton Thibodeau 69.11 to 30.89 percent for the right to face Democrat and Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet for the California 45th Congressional District seat. Pougnet was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
State races played out as predicted. Former Democratic Governor Jerry Brown will face Republican political novice and EBay CEO Meg Whitman in a contrast of generations and political insider/outsider in the November 9 General Election; although Southlander Janice Hahn carried Riverside County in her race against San Franciscan Gavin Newsome, she lost to Newsome statewide. Newsome will face current appointed Republican Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado; in the race for California Attorney General, Democrat Chris Kelly carried Riverside County against Kamala Harris but Harris prevailed statewide and will face Republican Steve Cooley; former Hewlett-Packard CEO and first-time office seeker Carly Fiorina will face veteran Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer for U.S. Senate; and Democrat Dave Jones will face Republican Brian Fitzgerald for state insurance commissioner.
In state ballot measures, Propositions 13 and 14, Retrofitting and Open Primary won, with the retrofitting proposition winning overwhelmingly. Propositions 15, a trial balloon for public financing, in this case of the race for state Secretary of State went down 57.5 to 42.5 statewide, 60.77 to 39.23 in Riverside County; voters defeated Proposition 16, pushed largely by Pacific Gas and Electric, 52.5 to 47.5 statewide, 59.66 to 47.5 in Riverside County; and Proposition 17, funded largely by Mercury Insurance, allowing transfer of auto insurance loyalty discounts, failed by 52.1 to 47.9 statewide, 56.91 to 43.09 in Riverside County.
In the county, Republicans outvoted Democrats by almost 7 percentage points, 26.23 to 19.32 percent. Statewide, percentages of voters who voted by party will be available on July 16 when election results are certified.