It's all but official: Vidak, Perez headed to runoff in 16th Senate District

The Fresno BeeMay 28, 2013 

It's all but official: Bakersfield Democrat Leticia Perez and Hanford Republican Andy Vidak will face off in a July 23 runoff to see which one will take over the vacant 16th District state Senate seat.

Both Kern and Tulare counties certified their election results on Tuesday, and Kings County election officials said they were finished counting, though the county has yet to certify the election.

That leaves Fresno County, which is essentially dotting i's and crossing t's. The county will update its numbers on Wednesday and certify no later than Friday, the deadline to do so, Clerk Brandi Orth said.

But it is almost a certainty that Vidak won't get enough Fresno County votes to go above the 50% threshold and win the May 21 election outright in the battle to replace Bakersfield Democrat Michael Rubio, who resigned in February.

At this point, he is 87 votes short of crossing that point. But the 50% is a moving number, and the real number of votes he needs is actually around 175.

But Fresno County is only canvassing and going through its write-in ballots to make sure nobody cast a vote there for one of the five candidates seeking the office.

Historically speaking, this final process has resulted in very few votes being added to the totals, Orth said.

"Here's a prefect example of where every vote counts," Orth said.

On Tuesday, Vidak said he was confident he can win the runoff.

He and his campaign team point out that the three other candidates -- Democrats Paulina Miranda of Fresno and Francisco "Frank" Ramirez of Riverdale, and Peace and Freedom Party member Mohammad Arif of Bakersfield -- won 3,978 votes.

If Vidak can win just 200 of those votes, he and his campaign team said, they would be above 50%.

Vidak noted he won by 3,806 votes, and "3800 votes is a lot of votes to catch up on."

One other option the Vidak camp has is to seek a recount.

"We're still evaluating that option," said Tim Orman, Vidak's main campaign consultant.

That said, Vidak was already campaigning Tuesday, seeking to win enough votes to capture a majority -- and doing so with cautious optimism.

"I'm not doing any touchdown dances," he said. "It's going to be a long, hot summer."

In a written statement, Perez said she was "excited for the chance to run against Mr. Vidak one-on-one. Voters will have a chance to directly compare our campaigns and visions of the future for the Valley."

She also embraced the state's proposed high-speed rail project, which has proven to be controversial in parts of the district -- especially Republican-dominated Kings County.

"How can Mr. Vidak say he's pro-jobs, yet oppose the biggest employment project in the history of California?" she asked in her written statement.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6320, jellis@fresnobee.com or @johnellis24 on Twitter.

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