Republican Devon Mathis of Visalia was ahead in early returns over Republican Rudy Mendoza in the race for the 26th Assembly District, a seat now held by termed-out Republican Assembly Member Connie Conway of Tulare.
Mathis had 55.2% to Mendoza’s 44.8%, with 87.3% of precincts reporting, according to the California Secretary of State.
Mendoza, 39, a member of the Woodlake City Council and the mayor, faced Mathis, a former Army sergeant who served two tours of duty in Iraq and was wounded by a roadside bomb.
The Assembly race and other South Valley races were being decided Tuesday night.
In Tulare County, the ballots of 29.9% of registered voters had been counted as of about 11:15 p.m., most from vote-by-mail ballots.
“I feel really confident right now,” Mathis said. “My opponent received 40% in the primary, and my plan was to hold him to that. It looks like I’ll be able to do it.”
The geographically large district includes most of Tulare County, a piece of northern Kern County and all of Inyo County, and is so heavily Republican in voter registration that the November runoff election pitted two Republicans against each other.
Mendoza raised about 10 times as much money as Mathis, including from several political action committees, and racked up a long list of endorsements, including from U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, for whom Mendoza once worked as district director.
Mathis received the endorsement of The Reagan League, a group that says it is for “conservatives that are fed up with the Republican Party.”
Mathis campaigned on a theme of “people over politics.”
“I think that resonated with people,” he said.
In the race for Tulare County Board of Supervisors District 5 in southeast Tulare County including Porterville, incumbent Supervisor Mike Ennis was locked in a battle to hold the seat for a third term against challenger Virginia Gurrola, a member of the Porterville City Council.
Ennis, 69, was well ahead in the first release of votes counted, with 61.3% to Gurrola’s 37.8%
Gurrola, 63, ran a campaign in which she slammed Ennis as “an absentee supervisor” who “does not collaborate” with local leaders.
“I’m liking the figures,” Ennis said. “I feel pretty good about it.”
Ennis faced a runoff election in November because he fell a few votes short of winning the June primary. He said he ran strong in rural areas in the primary and expected to pick up votes from voters who supported other primary candidates.
Early returns showed farmer Craig Pedersen, 53, leading Justin Bond, 37, a retired Army sergeant who lost a leg in the Iraq War, for Kings County Board of Supervisors District 4, which includes southwest Hanford and Armona.
In early returns, Pedersen had 53.3% to 45.9% for Bond, with 38.4% of registered voters’ ballots counted.
If his lead holds, Pedersen would succeed five term Supervisor Tony Barba, who did not seek re-election.
The Bond campaign was counting on a voting-day surge at the polls, said Supervisor Richard Valle, a Bond supporter.
Pedersen raised more money than Bond and said the biggest issue facing the county is water for agriculture.
Kings County figures showed that countywide the votes of 32.3% of registered voters had been counted as of 8:35 p.m.
In the race for Kings County Assessor, Kristine Lee, 48, a certified public accountant who works an an auditor-appraiser in the Tulare County Assessor’s Office, was ahead with 54.6% to 44.4% for A. Renee Faber, 50, an appraiser for the Kings County Assessor’s Office.
There is no incumbent because former Assessor Ken Baird retired.
Tulare City Council
In District 4, covering north-central Tulare, incumbent David Macedo, 52, is on his way to a fifth term after facing challenger Nathan Terry, 45, a minister and homeless mission director.
He had 74.8% to Terry’s 24.7%
In District 2, covering the lower-income west side, Ben Brubaker, 31, a grocery story manager, was ahead of Maritsa Castellanoz Munoz, 39, an insurance agent, and Arthur Cabello Sr., 53, a retired insurance broker who has sought election before in citywide council election.
With three of four precincts reporting, Brubaker has 37.3%, Munoz 36.9% and Cabello 24.4%.
The election will complete Tulare’s voluntary switch to election of council members by district.
Other city council elections
In Lemoore, five candidates were seeking two seats.
Raymond Madrigal, an appointed incumbent, had 32.9% of the vote, and agribusinessman Jeff Chedester had 21.5% in the early returns.
Incumbent Willard Rodarmel was trailing in his bid for re-election with 19.8%; Holly Andrade Blair, a teacher and professor, 15.8%; and Michael Montalbano, a field service representative, had 9.3%.
In Hanford Area A, David Ayers, a physical therapist, had 53.3%, while Tyler M. Vierra, a law school graduate, had 45.5%.
In Hanford Area D, challenger Francisco “Frank” Ramirez had 56% to incumbent Lou Martinez’s 42.7%.
In Hanford Area E, Justin Mendes, a district director, had 64.4%, while David Thomas, a business owner, had 34.9%, in a race for an open seat. Julia Jolee Jameson did not seek re-election.
In Corcoran, three incumbents were ahead in their bids for re-election: Raymond Lerma with 30.4%; Sid Palmerin, 26.1%; and Jerry Robertson, 26%. Challenger Clarence Cryer Jr., a health care executive, had 16.5%.
In Dinuba Ward 2, Maribel Reynosa, retired, was ahead of Nathaniel Mendoza, a pastor, 56.6% to 42%. Incumbent Janet Hinesly did not seek re-election.
In Dinuba Ward 3, incumbent Scott Harness was ahead of challengers Sal Medina, a business owner, and Armando Longoria, a martial arts instructor. Harness had 74.5%; Medina, 13.3%; and Longoria, 11.7%.
In Dinuba Ward 4, Kuldip Thusu, a small business owner, was defeating Maria McElroy, a corporate trainer, 56.4% to 43.6%. Incumbent Aldo Gonzalez did not seek re-election.
In Exeter, four candidates sought three seats. Incumbent Teresa Boyce had 23.8%; Gordon Gerdes, a business owner, 23.8%; and Mary Waterman, self-employed, 29.7%. Incumbent Jack Allwardt had 21.6% in the early returns.
In Farmersville, five candidates sought three seats.
Paul Boyer, a community development director, was ahead in his bid for election with 24.1%. Incumbent Leonel Benavides had 19.6%; Matt Sisk, a service manager, had 21.4%; incumbent Larry Miller, 15.2%; and Freddy Espinoza Jr., a carpenter, 19.3%.
In Lindsay, six candidates vied for two seats. In early returns, appointed incumbents Daniel Salinas and Ramona Villarreal-Padilla led with 26.1% and 18.9% respectively. Eric Sinclair, an account executive, had 10.7%; Timothy Daubert, a retired truck driver, 12%; Alberto Gutierrez, a sales coordinator, 16,2%; and Lorena Vazquez, a self-sufficiency counselor, 15.6%.
In Woodlake, nine candidates sought three seats.
Appointed incumbents Frances Ortiz and Gregorio Gonzalez Jr. had 19.2% and 19.4% respectively. Charles Ray, a fireman, had 14%; Virgil Murehead retired, 4%; William Lewis, retired city administrator, 9.1%; Shirley Moran, records clerk, 9.1%; Mikey Navarro, bookkeeper, 7.1%; Florencio Guerra Jr., social worker, 9.4%; and Tony Romero, industrial service technician, 8%.
College of the Sequoias
Incumbent Gregory Sherman was ahead of challenger Laurel Barton, a grant writer and city analyst, 54.9% to 44.5%