Thousands of mail-in ballots have been turned in for the special election for the 16th state Senate District, and more are expected in the final 12 days of the campaign.
Republican Andy Vidak of Hanford, a farmer, and Democrat Leticia Perez of Bakersfield, a member of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, are tracking the vote-by-mail ballots for clues as to who will win.
According to Political Data Inc., as of Wednesday 29,842 ballots had been mailed to the elections offices in Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties. Political Data provides voting information to campaigns.
Both campaigns say when they break down the vote-by-mail ballot — Democrat, Republican and other — the numbers favor their candidate.
“We’re pretty optimistic,” said Trent Hager, election manager for Perez, noting that the number of Democratic ballots returned so far is more than had been returned by the same point in the primary election.
In that balloting, Vidak got 49.8% of the vote to Perez’ 43.9%. Vidak needed to get just over 50 percent to claim the seat outright.
But Tim Orman, manager of the Vidak campaign, noted that so many Democrats voted for Vidak in the primary that if he can hold on to those votes and get a few more, he can win.
“We’re trying to get more of his supporters this time,” Orman said. “The response has been awesome.” Still, “it’s going to be close,” he said.
The Senate district, which stretches from Fresno to Bakersfield, has a registration that is 50.7% Democrat and 28.6% Republican.
The Perez campaign said it is seeking support from those who voted for her in the primary, as well as those who don’t know much about her because she’s from Bakersfield and won her first election only last year.
Perez said she’s targeting male voters over 55 in phone calls and door knocking: “I’m new to them,” she said.
The Perez campaign said it is also using TV ads to introduce voters to Perez and believe the ads have been effective in overcoming Vidak’s greater name recognition, Hagar said.
Perez said she was painted as “a ‘Sacramento liberal elite’ ” in the primary.
“That just isn’t me,” she said, and has fought back with TV ads and an endorsement from Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, because of his role as head of the Assembly’s moderate caucus.
Vidak is knocking on doors and meeting people in small groups, using direct mail pieces to send position statements, and said he visited Bakersfield, Tulare County and Fresno on Thursday, and Buttonwillow, Wasco, Bakersfield and Delano the day before.
“I’ve got a lot of support,” Vidak said. “It’s just a matter of talking to as many people as we can.”
State Senate District 16: Runoff between Leticia Perez, D-Bakersfield, and Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, to replace Michael Rubio, who resigned the seat in February. Perez and Vidak were the top vote-getters in a five-person field in May.
Election Day: Tuesday, July 23. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mail-in balloting started June 24.
2221 Kern St., Fresno
Details: Web or (559) 600-VOTE (8683)
5951 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia
Details: Web or (559) 624-7300.
1400 W. Lacey Blvd., Hanford
Details: Web or (559) 582-3211, ext. 4401.
City of residence: Bakersfield
Occupation: Kern County supervisor
Education: Bachelor's degree in law and society, University of California at Santa Barbara; law degree, Valparaiso University
Family: Married, 1 child
Party preference: Democrat
Facebook: Leticia Perez for Senate
City of residence: Hanford
Occupation: Farmer/small business owner
Education: Bachelor's in animal business, Texas Tech University
Party preference: Republican
Facebook: Andy Vidak
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6104, firstname.lastname@example.org or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.