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Update: Inland Empire June 7th Primary Election Results

Sign saying "Vote Aqui Here" placed outside the SSgt. Salvador J. Lara Casa Blanca Library in Riverside on September 14, 2021.
Jonathan Linden
91.9 KVCR
Sign saying "Vote Aqui Here" placed outside the SSgt. Salvador J. Lara Casa Blanca Library in Riverside on September 14, 2021.

Longtime KVCR contributor Cassie MacDuff spoke with KVCR’s Jonathan Linden as they discussed Tuesday’s primary election results.

Below is a transcript of the conversation between KVCR's Jonathan Linden and Cassie MacDuff.

Jonathan Linden: On Tuesday, Inland Empire residents headed to the polls to vote on a wide variety of elected positions, and I'm joined now by longtime Inland Empire journalist and KVCR contributor Cassie Macduff to discuss the numerous races that happen across our region. To jump right into things here, Cassie, let's talk about the race for San Bernardino Mayor, where it appears incumbent John Valdivia won't be reaching the November election.

Cassie MacDuff: Yeah, he appears to be coming in third, after former City Attorney Jim Penman and Helen Tran, the former Human Resources director for the city... she has done remarkably well. (Tran) ran a very grassroots campaign; right now, she has more than 40% of the votes, and out of a field of six, that's really good for someone who's never held elected office before. John Valdivia, as you say, the incumbent mayor… he has a lot of demerits against him. Voters know that he's been sued for sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. He also was censured by his own council after spending city money on a VIP reception to which the public and council members, and city department heads were not invited. So, I think the voters were cognizant of that, he also failed to show up for a number of the public forums, and Helen Tran, Jim Penman, and Treasurer Ortiz… who appears to be coming in a distant fourth, all showed up for most of those candidate forums. Ortiz had the endorsement of the newspaper, so I was a little surprised she didn't do better, but she has been rather a gadfly, coming to council meetings and being very pointedly critical of the council and mayor.

Jonathan Linden: Yeah, I was personally taken aback by how Helen Tran just ran away with this race, with the closest competition, Jim Penman, being nearly point 20 points behind. I think it's important to note, too, that Helen Tran had the backing of the Democratic establishment. She was endorsed by Pete Aguilar, Connie Leyva, and Majority Leader Eloise Gomez Reyes, so I guess in a sense, it's not surprising, but yeah, Helen definitely ran away with that race. And it should be interesting to see how that race between her and Jim Penman works out in November. Next, I want us to talk about the California 41st congressional district, which has been newly redrawn, and that was the race that Congressman Ken Calvert was running for.

Cassie MacDuff: Yes, Calvert's district was redrawn to include the low desert and the Coachella Valley cities, and it was termed a more competitive district than it's been in the past. He has comfortably been reelected many times; this time, he had five challengers. Will Rollins, a Democrat out of the low desert, appears to be the one who's going to make it into the run-off, and we have to say at this point that there are still about 150,000 ballots outstanding still to be counted. But Calvert has about 44% of the votes; Will Rollins has about 34%; there's only about eight points between them and considering how many people there were on the ballot for that race, Calvert has to be worried.

Jonathan Linden: And next, I want to jump to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors District 5 race, where you have the incumbent who is race against two mayors, as well as a former attorney. Could you give us a little bit more input on that race and how close it was?

Cassie MacDuff: Yeah, that looks very close. I would not try to call that race at this point. Moreno Valley Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez looks like he will be in the run-off with Jeff Hewitt (the incumbent). And also, coming in third appears to be Lloyd White, the mayor of Beaumont, and as you said, Danny Antoinette Mazinga, that attorney, is coming in much farther back. So, it looks like Hewitt and Gutierrez, who each have about 33% of the vote, will be facing off in the November run-off. Now I want to say, Jonathan, the last time I saw an incumbent do this poorly in an election, that was San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos. After he did that poorly in the primary, he dropped out of the race. So, we'll see if Hewitt decides to throw in the towel or if he's going to go into that run-off with Gutierrez.

Jonathan Linden: And what do you think contributed to this race being so close, Cassie?

Cassie MacDuff: Well, Hewitt has gotten a bit of negative publicity because he's been accused of sexual harassment by two Riverside County employees. One of them resulted in a $50,000 settlement from the county to the woman, and the other one is still pending... she has filed a lawsuit, so I think those things are in voters' minds. That's going to cost taxpayers money when an elected official is accused of things like that.

Jonathan Linden: And next, we wanted to jump to two San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors races. We can first talk about District 2, which had quite a spread field, where the incumbent was unable to run for reelection. Can you tell listeners a little bit more about that race?

Cassie MacDuff: That was an open seat because of term limits; Janice Rutherford was termed out. In that race, Jessie Armendarez, a former Fontana school board member and a Fontana councilman... he got the newspaper's endorsement, but it looks like he's coming in second. Luis Cetina, a Cucamonga Water District board member... it looks like he's coming in about five points ahead of Armendarez. As you said, there were three other people running; one of them, DeJonaé Shaw, got about 20%, and the two others got less than 10% each.

Jonathan Linden: And to jump to the other San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors race, District 4... Can you tell listeners a little bit more about that race, where it appears that the incumbent won't be having to run in November?

Cassie MacDuff: Yeah, Curt Hagman has been a very popular county supervisor and chairman of the board for quite some time. And before that, he was a Republican assemblyman. He was challenged by state senator Connie Leyva, a Democrat who's also well known and been elected pretty comfortably in a district that is very similar to the fourth supervisorial district, but it does look like Hagman may have won in the primary. In these local races, any candidate who gets 50% of the vote, plus one vote… wins outright. And Hagman is pretty comfortably ahead with almost 56% at this point... I've been watching the updates, and they haven't changed that much. So, I think Leyva is out of office for the time being, at least.

Jonathan Linden: Yeah, and she will serve her current term as state senator till December. But, Cassie, there was so many races happening across the Inland Empire that we weren't even able to touch base on. Were there some other highlights that you would like to mention?

Cassie MacDuff: Well, there are a couple of other open seats. One was the assembly district where Chad Mayes… he was the assembly Republican leader for a while, and then he took exception to some of the directions that his party was going towards and voted with the Democrats on one particular climate change issue. He changed his registration to no party preference, became an independent, and he decided not to run again. So, one of his staff members, Greg Wallace, is running as a Republican, and a woman named Christy Holstege, a Democrat... and she is 20 points ahead of Wallace. There were two other candidates in that race, so it looks like Holstege and Wallace will face off, but she did far better than he did in the primary. Another one is Jose Medina's assembly seat, and in that one, there were three Democratic candidates who got about 60% of the vote among them. And one Republican, Hector Diaz Nava, who is ahead at about 37% of the vote at this point... He’ll be facing Cory Jackson, a Board of Education member who seems to be coming in second... comfortably ahead of the next Democrat. And then finally, the assembly district in southwest Riverside County, that has been held by Kelly Seyarto, he decided to run for state senate, and so there are three running for that race... a Democrat who's gotten a little over 43% of the vote, Fauzia Rizvi, and then two Republicans... Bill Essayli and Clint Lorimore, and that race is pretty close at this point. Essayli is a little bit ahead, but we'll see which one of those two Republicans will be facing Rizvi in the fall.

Jonathan Linden: And Cassie, could you tell listeners about the state's 34th Assembly District?

Cassie MacDuff: Yeah, that's an interesting one, that is mostly L.A. County and San Bernardino County, but a tiny sliver of Kern County as well. And with the redistricting, two Republican incumbents are running against each other, and right now, they are locked in a dead heat. I mean, literally just a couple of votes apart... that's Tom Lackey and Thurston "Smitty" Smith... a Democrat, Rita Ramirez Dean, appears to be coming in third behind them, so it looks like the two Republicans will face off in the fall.

Jonathan Linden: Yeah, that will be a race to have our eyes on. Could you also tell our listeners a little bit more about the Riverside County Sheriff's race?

Cassie MacDuff: Yeah, it doesn't look like Chad Bianco, the incumbent, had any trouble. He's well ahead, a little under 60%... You know, Jonathan, I also wanted to mention the district attorney's race in Riverside County; Mike Hestrin, the incumbent, was challenged by two challengers, but he appears to be headed for victory in the primary as well. Lara Grassley, who had the newspaper's endorsement, and Burke Strunsky, a judge... they both challenged him, and each got less than 25% of the vote. So, it does look like Hestrin is sailing to reelection.

Jonathan Linden: Alright, well, longtime KVCR contributor Cassie Macduff, thank you for taking some time to review some of these election results with me today.

Cassie MacDuff: My pleasure. Thank you, Jonathan.

Jonathan Linden was a reporter at 91.9 KVCR in San Bernardino, California. He joined KVCR in July 2021 and served with the station till October 2022.
Cassie is a Press Enterprise regional columnist blogger.