In California’s current top-two election procedure, the top-two vote getters in any primary election jurisdiction — other than U.S. president, county central committee or local — regardless of party, move on to the general election. In Assembly District 71, the results present a textbook question — what is fair to voters when a candidate withdraws prior to the election and his name remains on the ballot?
In Assembly District 71, the results from the June 7 primary showed Randy Voepel as the top vote getter with 60.3 percent (40,061), Leo Hamel second with 27.9 percent (18,463) and Tony Teora third with 11.9 percent (7,936).
Hamel withdrew from the election prior to the June 7 primary, but not in time to have his name removed from the ballot. Prior to the election, Hamel confirmed by telephone with the Town Crier that he had, in fact, withdrawn. After the primary, he again confirmed he had withdrawn. “I have no intention of campaigning,” said Hamel.
Sam Mahood, media services specialist at the California Secretary of State’s office, said the only way Hamel’s name could be removed from the ballot is by a court order or by death. If by a court order, Mahood said it would have to occur at least 68 days before the general election. Mahood said he could not comment on what the court process would be to remove the name or who could initiate it.
Teora, who finished third in the primary and actively campaigned in Idyllwild, said he would investigate legal alternatives since Hamel had publicly withdrawn from the race. “I feel it’s a disservice to the voters to not allow our campaign to continue when the second-place finisher has dropped out,” said Teora. “What does the Republican party have to lose from my candidacy? I’ve always said I’m a fighter, and I’ll see if I can get through the legal system to have his name removed.”
When Mahood, at the Secretary of State’s office, was asked if he had seen this kind of situation before, he said he had not but that at this point, a court order would seem to be the only avenue.
Voepel, with his significant vote percentage, large number of votes and cache of endorsements, seems well on his way to victory in the general election. Voepel, current mayor of Santee, said he and his wife are planning to come to Idyllwild in August. “I’m thinking of doing a town workshop or meeting to familiarize myself with issues of importance to Idyllwild voters,” he said. “I’m a conservative Republican but I could be a surprise to your more liberal voters. I plan to represent all voters in the district if I’m elected.”
Voepel also confirmed that Hamel had dropped out. “Leo does not intend to campaign,” he said.