Andy Vidak, Leticia Perez watching mail-in ballots for state Senate race

The Fresno BeeJuly 11, 2013 

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.

Candidates on Valley economy: Read Perez's and Vidak's position papers published in Thursday's Bee Opinion page

Election offices

Fresno County:

2221 Kern St., Fresno

Details: Web or (559) 600-VOTE (8683)

Tulare County:

5951 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia

Details: Web or (559) 624-7300.

Kings County:

1400 W. Lacey Blvd., Hanford

Details: Web or (559) 582-3211, ext. 4401.

The candidates

Leticia Perez

Age: 36

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

Web: www.leticiaperez.org

Facebook: Leticia Perez for Senate

Twitter: @Team_Leticia

Andy Vidak

Age: 47

City of residence: Hanford

Occupation: Farmer/small business owner

Education: Bachelor's in animal business, Texas Tech University

Family: Single

Party preference: Republican

Web: vidakforsenate.com

Facebook: Andy Vidak

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6104, lgriswold@fresnobee.com or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.

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