Primary Election: Same Old Same Old, Sprinkled Surprises

Rudy Mendoza and family arrive to a victory celebration at the Visalia Convention Center.
Rudy Mendoza and family arrive to a victory celebration at the Visalia Convention Center.

The June 3rd primary election ushered into office heavily favored candidates, but also produced a few surprises.

The biggest surprise of the night was the race for Tulare County District Attorney. In a duel that was difficult to call during its final days, Tim Ward pulled off a solid defeat of former Assistant DA Ralph Kaelble. Ward waited until the first election results were in before politely informing the Political Fix author that he disagreed with her prediction that he would win by a scant 500 votes. “I knew I’d prove you wrong,” he said. Ward ended up winning by over 14%.

As a low turnout was expected, it was no surprise that–according to the Tulare County Registrar of Voters–of the 137,306 registered voters countywide, only 31,769 actually participated. The actual election day turnout was 7%.
Not surprisingly, the turnout for three related victory parties–held in different but adjoining rooms at the Visalia Convention Center–was spirited. Candidates Mike Boudreaux, Rudy Mendoza and Tim Ward each hosted a gathering.

Boudreaux’ was, by far, the most thronged of the three. Ward’s crowd seemed quietly confident, while Mendoza’s room was airy. In such a large field–even if such a large favorite–Mendoza, as everyone else did, had to have known he would be competing again in November. But once the early returns were in, Ward was free to mingle as the victor. Boudreaux would have been, too, if not for the receiving line he felt obliged to welcome.

Rudy Mendoza and Tim Ward watch the first election returns come in.
Rudy Mendoza and Tim Ward watch the first election returns come in.

Another of the evening’s surprises was the second place winner of the 26th Assembly District race. A second place finish would guarantee that candidate a chance to run against favorite Rudy Mendoza in the November general election. Mendoza won a commanding 39% of the vote, which is impressive in a field of seven candidates. But more impressive was the dark horse candidate, Devon Mathis. When asked if he was surprised about his victory Mathis replied, “That was kind of my plan.”

Mathis got the biggest bang for his buck this election, barely spending $4,000 compared to Mendoza’s $120,000.

“We did a lot of walking the precincts,” Mathis said. “I’d like to thank Veterans for Mathis.”
He also credited the success of his on-line campaign, specifically referring to the streamed candidates’ debates.

“The general population liked my message that I plan on going to Sacramento to work with everyone. It’s a job. It doesn’t matter if you have a “D” or an “R” next to your name. Everyone is sick of the polarization of the parties. I want to build with what we have in common.”

As for his opinion of Rudy? “I’m better educated, I have more leadership experience, and I know how to get things done.” It looks like Rudy Mendoza is going to get a run for his money.

The winner of the biggest victory party of night went to Mike Boudreaux. He was also, perhaps because of the contentiousness of his race, the biggest winner. After months of wrangling over allegations of corruption within the sheriff’s department and the possible illegality of having conducted a raffle in support of his campaign, Boudreaux won by a wide margin over his challenger, former undersheriff Dave Whaley.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux poses for a selfie at the head of his receiving line.
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux poses for a selfie at the head of his receiving line.

Boudreaux won by the largest gulf of any of the local races. At press time, Boudreaux was wining with 72% of the vote against Whaley’s 27%. After victory became apparent, a receiving line formed just to shake Boudreaux’s hand and extend congratulations.

Supervisor Mike Ennis breathed a sigh of relief, winning over 50% of the vote to avoid a run-off for District 5. In second place, Virginia Gurrola garnered 23% of the vote. Greg Shelton trailed with 15%.
In a sad twist to the Porterville City Council race, incumbent Pete McCracken suffered a mild heart attack five days before the election.

As of Tuesday, he was still recovering at Sierra View Hospital in Porterville. McCracken still managed to retain his seat on the council, coming in second to the former Deputy City Manager of Porterville, Milt Stowe.

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