State Assembly Race Too Close to Call

Rudy Mendoza and his wife await elections results with friends in Woodlake.
Rudy Mendoza and his wife await elections results with friends in Woodlake.

Final results for the 26th District State Assembly race showed only a 583 vote difference between second place Democrat Ruben Macareno and third place Republican Rudy Mendoza. Assemblyman Devon Mathis was the clear winner Tuesday night with 44.1% of the vote. Macareno had 28.7% and Mendoza had 27.3% of the vote.

The top two vote getters proceed to compete in the general election in November.

Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza had a family and friends get-together at a guest house outside of Twilight Park in Woodlake on election night. He stated, “If it took my campaign to ensure that the incumbent reconsiders voting for a tax increase, then I consider my campaign a success.”

Mendoza wanted to thank all of his supporters and all of those people who voted for him.

The tax increase that Mendoza was referring to was the subject of many hard hitting anti-Mathis political flyers that landed in constituents’ mail boxes over the last two weeks. At issue was Assemblyman Mathis’ vote on February 29 in favor of the Managed Care Organization tax. Mathis says it was not a tax, but conservative Central Valley Republicans say that it was a tax and that health care insurance premiums will go up as a result.

If Mendoza’s message to Mathis was anti-tax, it’s doubtful Mathis heard it.

Assemblyman Mathis and one of his biggest donors, Dr. Benny Benzeevi, of Healthcare Conglomerates Association (HCCA,) were pictured on the front page of the June 8 Visalia Times-Delta celebrating Mathis’ victory Tuesday night and shaking hands. Mathis’ yes vote for the MCO tax financially helped HCCA’S hospital in Inyo County.

The only surprise of the night for Macareno was “that Mathis did as well as he did.”

Macareno, who believed it was going to be tighter race, said, “I find it interesting that the incumbent needed almost half million dollars to retain his seat in the primary and that a challenger is having trouble securing a spot in the general after spending $426,000 in the primary.” According to financial reports Mendoza and a Political Action Committee spent around $427,000 on the primary.

“Being the ‘David’ among two ‘Goliaths’ is humbling and I am happy to have ended election night in the number two spot. There are still thousands of ballots to be counted and I am only less than two percentage points from falling out of the general election. However I am hopeful the trend will continue to favor my campaign.”

The thousands of votes yet to be counted are the remaining vote by mail, provisional and challenged ballots. An updated elections results report is due on Friday. The Elections Office has 30 days in order to certify the final results.

As for stepping up his campaign for the general election, “If I make the general election my campaign will be very different from my primary effort. Fundraising will become a major effort as well as building a dedicated team,” said Macareno.

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