Home>Articles>Second Vote Recount In Senate District 16 Begins In Central California

Senator Melissa Hurtado. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Second Vote Recount In Senate District 16 Begins In Central California

20 votes still separate Hurtado, Shepard nearly two months after the November elections

By Evan Symon, January 5, 2023 6:04 pm

A second recount of the close Senate District 16 election between Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) and David Shepard (R) began on Thursday, with Hurtado expanding the recount to include more voting precincts in the hope of expanding her narrow 20 vote lead.

The Central Valley race was the closest race of the 2022 election in California. The newly redrawn district shifted to covering parts of Fresno, Kings, Kern, and Tulare counties, shifting the district from a largely-Latino, leaning blue district to one that is more diverse, as well as more solidly purple.

Shepard, a farmer who had large bases of farming and Latino support, quickly took the lead following the primary in June. However, Hurtado managed to keep up, selling herself in ads as “The California version of Joe Manchin”. On election day, the close election remained undecided, with the race still not being called throughout November. In early December, the race was finally called with the vote total being  locked in at 50% and Hurtado only winning by 20 votes, 28,457 to 28,437.

While Hurtado was sworn in, Shepard quickly mounted a recount effort. Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Tulare counties all began their respective recounts in late December, with costs amounting to around $6,500 a day for the Shepard campaign.

In November, Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk (R- Santa Clarita) and incoming Senate Republican Leader-elect Brian Jones (R-Santee) issued a joint statement, asking the state Senate to hold off swearing in D-16 Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) saying that potentially hundreds of ballots remained uncounted.

“Every vote should be counted, period,” the Senators said in the joint statement. “The Central Valley’s Senate District 16 race between Melissa Hurtado and David Shepard is extremely close with a margin reportedly at 20 votes out of more than 136,000 votes cast.”

Despite counting going into the new year, and a handful of tiny vote changes, the end result was still Hurtado still on top by 20 votes, minus Kings County, where the results are supposed to be in tomorrow. However, the new recount  total so far still has still not been right with Team Hurtado, even though they had won the recount. The Shepard recount only covered 20% of ballots, a figure allowed by state law, with the recounts being in districts he won in the original certification of the election. Hurtado’s recount, meanwhile, will be including another 150 precincts that had gone in her favor in Kern County.

A new recount in Kern County

D-16 Republican David Shepard. (Photo: ShepardforSenate.com)

While no official reason was stated for the new recount on Thursday, prior statements by Hurtado have left big hints.

“While the mostly complete Shepard recount is reviewing all ballots cast in Fresno and Kings counties as well as half of Tulare county, it only included one-fifth of Kern County,” said Hurtado in late December. “Mr. Shepard’s limited recount in Kern concluded without an examination of materials or recount in precincts other than those most favorable to his campaign.”

Political experts have noted that Hurtado wants to confirm that she won all the districts she said she did, just to leave no doubt on the table.

“She didn’t say so, but that’s really the only reason why she would do it,” explained Tony Villi, a close-elections researcher who tracks close state-level legislative elections, to the Globe on Thursday. “Shepard’s recount is supposed to be completed tomorrow as well, so if they did somehow find over twenty votes or vote changes in his favor, Hurtado could bring some of her own as well in those new recount districts in Kern County. Both really want to win this race, and Hurtado wants to lock it up as soon as possible so that  Shepard has no major leeway.”

The new recount began this morning in Kern County. It is expected to be completed later this month. Shepard’s recount is expected to end tomorrow in Kings County. Official recount reasoning by the Hurtado campaign is also expected soon.

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Evan Symon
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One thought on “Second Vote Recount In Senate District 16 Begins In Central California

  1. If Democrat Senator Melissa Hurtado only has a narrow 20 vote lead, then Democrats must have miscalculated in the number of ballots they needed to create in order to overcome the actual real votes that Republican David Shepard received? No doubt Democrats will find (or create) more ballots to give Hurtado a more comfortable lead?

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