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Fresno election review: low turnout thus far



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by David Taub

[Note: this story has been updated to reflect yet-to-be-counted ballots in turnout total]

A look at the elections in Fresno…

Lee Brand is the new mayor-elect. In a race that was a dead heat in polls just a few weeks ago, the city councilman broke things open the final few weeks. With 100% precincts reporting, Brand defeated county Supervisor Henry R. Perea, 53.4 to 46.3%, or by 6,035 votes.

Two city council favorites won their respective races. The once and future councilman, Garry Bredefeld, easily dispatched Jeremy Pearce, 64.6-35.2% (difference of 5,586 votes). The District 6 election was to replace termed-out and now mayor-elect Lee Brand. Bredefeld also served on the council, 1997-2001.

In District 5, Luis Chavez garnered 57.8% of the vote to assume the seat vacated by his boss, current councilman Sal Quintero. Chavez, currently an elected member to the Fresno Unified school board and Quintero’s chief of staff, defeated Jose Barraza (24%) and Tony Gastelum (18%). Chavez will fill the remaining two years of the District 5 term. Quintero was elected to the county Board of Supervisors back in June.

Replacing Chavez on the Fresno Unified area 2 school board is his fiancé, Elizabeth Jonasson. She defeated Yuritzy Villasenor, 65.4 to 34% (margin of 1,228 votes).

In the other Fresno Unified open seat, area 6 (vacated by the retiring Janet Ryan), Claudia Cazares defeated Jack Jarvis, 54.7-45% (margin of 874 votes). [editor’s note: Cazares is an employee of Granville Homes, corporate owner of GV Wire]

Voters approved Measure X, the $225 million dollar school bond for Fresno Unified, 63.55-36.45% (margin of 15,108). It only needed 55% to pass. The bond was one of the more contentious local questions asked of the electorate. Despite the absence of official Yes or No committees, major funding was provided by outside sources. Radio station group One Putt Broadcasting paid more than $30,000 for ads and signs. A group organized by trustee Brooke Ashjian and a Sacramento-based charter school lobbying group vowed to spend $100,000 to defeat the measure.

Voters rejected a pair of county charter amendments. Measure T would allow the County Administrative Officer appoints the Chief Probation Officer. Currently, Superior Court judges are tasked with that role. Voters said no, 53.92-46.08% (margin of 11,544).

Measure U also failed, 56.4-43.% (margin of 18,566). It would among other things change the County Administrator from an elected position to an appointed one.

Turnout rate so far was the lowest countywide for a general election dating back to 1996 (the earliest date results are available). Only 177,183 voters bothered to participate, at a rate of 40.48%.

Voter turnout for Presidential elections
Year Total voters Eligible voters Percentage
2016                         177,183                    437,667 40.5%
2012                         261,652                    410,187 63.8%
2008                         275,554                    382,827 72.0%
2004                         249,905                    351,705 71.1%
2000                         222,407                    329,115 67.6%
1996                         216,212                    332,739 65.0%

Fresno County elections chief Brandi Orth says there are still 80,000 mail-in ballots and 31,000 provisional ballots that still need to be counted. If you add in those 111,000, turnout rate would improve to 65.8%, in line with prior contests.

There were no surprises in the elections of the local delegations to Sacramento and Washington. In the Assembly, Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals), Adam Gray (D-Merced), Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), Devon Mathis (R-Visalia), Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) and Rudy Salas (D-Hanford/Bakersfield) return.

For the local delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives, it was smooth sailing to return for Tom McClintock (R-Roseville/mountain towns), Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), Jim Costa (D-Fresno/Merced), David Valadao (R-Hanford), Devin Nunes (R-Fresno/Visalia) and Kevin McCarthy (R-Tulare/Bakersfield).

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