Incumbency still popular

Generally, the best overall conclusion from last week’s primary election is incumbency remains a powerful vote magnet. Even party registration is a weaker indicator of election results in Riverside County.

Although the Democratic Party has more registered voters in Riverside County than the Republican Party, the two top Republican gubernatorial candidates — John Cox and Travis Allen — easily out-polled the top three Democratic candidates — Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa and John Chiang.

In Riverside County, Cox was the leading vote getter in the governor’s primary with nearly 78,000 votes. Newsom, who led statewide, garnered 51,900 votes here, which was fewer than a quarter of the votes cast for a gubernatorial candidate.

Results in local races, from the federal House of Representatives to county, generally favored the incumbents, although the summer and fall campaign might sway voters toward some challengers, several of whom have expressed confidence in the next five months.

Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz easily dominated the vote for the District 36 seat. He had nearly 55 percent of the total. Kimberlin Brown Pelzer easily outpaced her Republican colleagues, but failed to gain even half of Ruiz’s total.

Pelzer expressed her gratitude for being in the top two and her excitement for the rest of the campaign. She was surprised his vote total wasn’t higher since she had addressed it personally during the primary.

Similarly, in the race for the state Senate District 28 seat, incumbent Jeff Stone, a Republican, easily outdistanced his two Democratic challengers. Stone has 56.2 percent of the vote counted. Joy Silver, with 34.7 percent, will continue the challenge against Stone until the November election.

Stone reflected that the primary was an interim report card from voters. He emphasized that 75 percent of his staff time is devoted to helping constituents with a variety of problems.

“We want to make a difference in a life,” he stated.

He does expect the fall election to be different from the 2014 race. Then, his opponent was Bonnie Garcia, a fellow Republican. “We only had about 15 percent difference, but this year, I suspect we [Joy Silver, a Democrat] are in disagreement on 85 percent of the issues and only agree on 15 percent.”

In the race for Assembly District 71 (a portion in Riverside and San Diego counties), incumbent Republican Randy Voepel was the leading vote getter although he didn’t receive 50 percent. In fact, Riverside County voters preferred his Republican challenger Larry Wilske, but San Diego voters clearly prefer Voepel, who finished first overall with 44 percent of the vote.

He will face Democratic challenger James Elia in November, who finished second with 32 percent of the total.

In county elections, incumbency seemed to be beneficial. District Attorney Michael Hestrin doubled the vote his challenger Lara Gressley received to win the election and avoid a fall campaign.

And Treasurer Jon Christensen received more than 80 percent of the vote in his race again Hakan Jackson.

In the sheriff’s race, incumbent Stan Sniff finished second, but the leader, Lt. Chad Bianco, did not get 50 percent of the vote, so they will continue to campaign into November.

Bianco, with 71,932 votes, led the four-person field. Sniff got 67,238 (33 percent) of the votes counted. However, Bianco and the other two challengers — former Hemet Chief Dave Brown and county deputy Miguel Garcia — collective received two-thirds of the vote.

“Voters are looking for a change,” Bianco said. “The employees are speaking out. Going into the campaign, my message is being heard. [Dave] Brown and I had a very similar position, just favored a different person for sheriff.”

Ready for a tough campaign, Sniff said, “I look forward to a vigorous runoff campaign this fall, focused on the very significant differences in experience and approach between my opponent and myself.

“I also think that the nearly one million dollars to date spent by challengers on negative and deceptive ads had an impact, but believe that voters are also concerned by the influence of the single special-interest group pouring massive resources into the campaign of my opponent.

“Voters want both independence, experience and a record of success in their sheriff, and that is what I will be offering them … ,” Sniff promised.

In the race for the three supervisors’ seats, only one had an incumbent running. Fourth District Supervisor Manual Perez, who was appointed after John Benoit died, defeated his one challenger, Jan Harnik.

The other two races had five and six candidates, respectively, because the incumbents, John Tavaglione (2nd District) and Marion Ashley (Fifth District), had announced their retirements from the board.

Finally, Deputy District Attorney Tim Hollenhorst was elected to the vacant judgeship with nearly three-quarters of the vote over Shaffer Cormell.

Of the five propositions on the ballot, only 70, the greenhouse gas reserve fund, was defeated. Proposition 68, the natural resources bond measure, passed with 56 percent of the vote and the other three all received more than 75 percent in favor.

Riverside County voters opposed both 68 and 79 while overwhelmingly supporting the other three.