By every measure except the one that counts, JD Bennett should not be a state Assembly candidate facing off against incumbent Fresno Democrat Henry T. Perea in November.
Bennett entered the 31st Assembly District race just two weeks before the June 5 primary and got just 1.3% of the votes.
Yet here he is, on the ballot, campaigning, raising money -- and insisting he has a chance to upset Perea.
Bennett is using the state's new election system, which pits the top two June primary finishers in all state and federal races -- save for U.S. president -- against each other in the Nov. 6 general election.
As the only challenger to Perea, all Bennett had to do was get a single write-in vote and he was on the November ballot as an official candidate.
He got that vote -- likely from himself -- plus 298 others.
Whether Bennett, a Republican, is a viable challenger is another question. He says GOP leaders view the 31st District as a possible takeaway from the Democrats -- even though local Republicans and political analysts tell a different story, one that has the district safely in Democratic Party hands.
The district is newly redrawn, but its lines over decades always have been reliably Democratic. Today, its registered voters are 48% Democratic and 31% Republican.
Los Angeles-based political analyst Allan Hoffenblum, a longtime Republican strategist and author of the California Target Book, which tracks the state's elections, said those numbers are enough to deter party spending in the district.
As of June 30, Bennett had raised just $1,132 and had $800 in his campaign account. Perea had raised more than $777,000 by then and had close to $490,000 in his war chest.
Still, here's Bennett, manning a phone bank this week and very much acting like a candidate.
Initially, Geof Lickey was in line to challenge Perea. The Sanger Republican qualified for the ballot. But then Lickey -- who works for the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, which is funded with city, county, state and federal dollars -- was told by his bosses that his run for elective office was a violation of a federal law.
The Hatch Act bars federal employees from using government resources for partisan purposes. Lickey said he was told it also prohibited him from running for partisan political office.
Though Lickey questioned the connection, he nevertheless pulled out of the race.
Enter Bennett, who is retired after a law enforcement career spent mostly with the state Department of Justice. He said a "coalition of conservative groups in California called and asked" him to run.
Two weeks before the primary, he turned in the necessary forms, including a petition signed by 40 registered 31st District voters, and he was a candidate. His political experience came mostly from helping Assembly members Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks and Shannon Grove of Bakersfield with petition drives.
Bennett is a down-the-line Republican who casts Perea as being part of the Democratic machine in Sacramento, which pushes for higher taxes and ignores ever-increasing deficits.
His priorities are jobs, water, education and public safety. Perea's priorities also are areas such as jobs and water.
But there are clear differences.
For instance, Perea supports Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's November tax-hike ballot initiative, while Bennett doesn't.
Perea also supports the plan to divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, an idea once known as the Peripheral Canal. Bennett doesn't support it. He said it would be cheaper to keep the same water infrastructure and change federal law -- such as the Endangered Species Act -- that currently hamstrings water deliveries.
Bennett also hates Brown's realignment plan that has low-level inmates serving their time in county jails instead of state prisons.
Reminded that realignment was launched both to save money and get the state in compliance with a federal court order to stop prison overcrowding, Bennett said existing prisons should be expanded. That can be cheaper than building new ones, he said, as well as reduce overcrowding.
Perea points to his work securing funding to open a veterans home in Fresno, as well as his continuing work to get clean water to poor Valley communities, and said he wants to use a second term to work on getting lower utility rates for the region.
Perea said he won't stop pounding those messages: "I'll be up on TV. I'll be knocking on doors, holding community town halls, doing everything I can to reach out to voters."
At the same time, Bennett -- the 11th-hour write-in long shot -- believes he has a chance at victory.
"It's going to be a tight race, but I think we've got the momentum and the backing," he said.
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 31
HENRY T. PEREA
Occupation: Assembly member
Education: Fresno State, bachelor of arts in political science
Family: Married, one child
Party preference: Democrat
Occupation: Retired law enforcement officer
Education: Attended College of the Sequoias and Palomar College; worked on an administration of justice degree
Family: Single, two children, three grandchildren
Party preference: Republican
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6320, firstname.lastname@example.org or @johnellis24 on Twitter.