One of the last races to be called in California is the state Senate contest between incumbent Melissa Hurtado and farmer David Shepard.
As of Thursday, Shepard, R-Porterville, is leading Hurtado, D-Bakersfield, by 245 votes.
That may be too close to seat a senator when the Legislature is sworn in Monday.
“The Senate has an obligation to only seat those who have clearly won an election and that is not yet the case in SD 16, one of the closest contests in the state. As of today, the outcome is uncertain because the number of remaining eligible ballots that could be counted,” the office of Senate Pro-Tem Toni Atkin, D-San Diego, said.
“We understand that there will be multiple more days of reporting from counties in the district and we will evaluate no later than the certification of the election on December 8th.”
Counties need to certify results by Dec. 8, with state certification due by Dec. 16.
‘Slap in the Face’ If No One Is Seated: Shepard
Shepard is optimistic about Friday’s updates from Kern and Fresno counties. He says the political math (see below) is in his favor.
He plans to be in Sacramento on Monday. Gov. Gavin Newsom has called a special session for that day to discuss oil company profits.
Shepard says it is critical to participate since Kern County is a major oil-producing county.
“The fact that there would not be a representative there is a complete and total slap in the face of the constituents here. And, you know, it’s really indicative of what Sacramento continues to do,” Shepard said.
Shepard, a political novice, credits the voters of SD 16 for his lead.
“There is a hunger and a desire that they have a representative in Sacramento that really just is going to promulgate their values. And I think that I’m that candidate,” Shepard said.
“Many individuals say that Melissa’s just not there, not in the community, and not a part of what’s going on,” Shepard said. “A lot of the folks can see through the Sacramento antics and they’ve just decided to vote with their conscience.”
Hurtado Calm, Her Dad Nervous
Hurtado, likewise, is awaiting ballot updates.
“I don’t have any plans to join the ceremony on Monday just yet unless it’s clear that I’m the winner,” Hurtado said.
Hurtado says redistricting may have hurt her because most of Fresno County was removed from the district she represented. Only the area around conservative Kingsburg remains. Hurtado currently represents SD 14, which includes much of the city of Fresno, and much of the southeastern portion of the county.
“I think that’s the reason for the numbers being closer. I think turnout also has a lot to do with that. And I think that to a certain extent, perhaps the current state of the economy,” Hurtado said.
She initially was drawn into the same district as fellow incumbent Democrat Anna Caballero of Merced. Hurtado moved to Bakersfield to run.
Hurtado is at peace with whatever happens. Her father is a different case.
“I felt he was about to have a stroke because he was just sad. And I think he’s feeling very hopeful now and much more optimistic. When you run for office, you always have to prepare your family for the worst, but also for the best. So I try to do that as much as I can with my family,” Hurtado said.
What the Numbers Say
Two of the four counties comprising the district have completed their counts — Kings and Tulare. Fresno has approximately 2,000 ballots total remaining and Kern has 720.
Not all of those ballots are in the district. 44% of Kern County, where Hurtado has been running the strongest at 58%, is within SD 16. Fresno County has only 2% of its voters in the district.
In theory, that means there are only 356 votes remaining. That means Hurtado would need to win 84% of those ballots to win a second term.
Special Session on Oil Monday
Prior to the governor calling for Monday’s special session, GV Wire asked local lawmakers for their thoughts on California’s highest-in-the-nation gas prices and oil company profits.
Caballero said she’d like to hear from the oil companies “what the profits look like, what production looks like in the state of California, and we’ll use that information.”
She also said that voters told her on the campaign trail that gas prices weren’t as important as overall inflation.
Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula agreed that the cost of living was a more important issue.
“We heard clearly about how it was necessary for us to address the inflation costs that were coming. And what I believe is the middle-class relief that we passed with a tax refund will be hitting our constituents very soon. And I look forward to that $1,000 for most families that they will receive in the coming days to see how that helps us to benefit. But I look forward to also discussing how our economy is booming and our communities are thriving. And I am grateful for the direction that our state is going,” Arambula said.
Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, doubts the special session will do any good.
“Democrats can do anything they damn well want to,” Patterson said. “In my mind, this is basically a stunt.”