Home>Articles>Senators Wilk, Jones Ask Senate To Hold Off On Swearing In D-16 Senate Winner With Race Still Undecided

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

Senators Wilk, Jones Ask Senate To Hold Off On Swearing In D-16 Senate Winner With Race Still Undecided

Sen. Melissa Hurtado currently leads Republican challenger David Shepard by only 20 votes with more to be counted

By Evan Symon, December 9, 2022 4:48 pm

Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk (R- Santa Clarita) and incoming Senate Republican Leader-elect Brian Jones (R-Santee) issued a joint statement Friday, asking the state Senate to hold off swearing in D-16 Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) due to concerns that some ballots still have not have been counted.

The Central Valley race was the closest race of the 2022 election in California. Hurtado’s district significantly reshaped following redistricting last year. While she kept much of the Tulare area, a big base of support in Fresno  was cut off and instead replaced with new area to the South and West, including Bakersfield.

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

The area, which is majority Latino and holds a slight advantage for Democrats in terms of registered voters, quickly proved a challenge to Hurtado, who came in second during the crowded primary to Republican David Shepard, a farmer who had large bases of farming and Latino support.

While Shepard looked as the likely victor in the months before the election, Hurtado managed to keep up, selling herself in ads as “The California version of Joe Manchin” due to her moderate voting record. However, Shepard fought back in ads, saying that she was a carpetbagger who switched to the district next door in order not to face a fellow Democratic incumbent.

On election day, the close election remained undecided, with the race still not being called throughout November. As of Friday, no winner has yet to be officially declared, with the vote total being currently locked in at 50% and Hurtado only winning by 20 votes, 28,457 to 28,437. The respective County elections offices have said that they have stopped counting, although this will change soon due to a recount to be triggered.

Despite this, Democrats have looked forward to swearing in Hurtado soon to the Senate due to her narrow victory. But Senators Wilk and Jones on Friday noted that there are at least 14 votes in Kern County that haven’t been counted, with 600-800 ballots in Tulare County still remaining as well. In addition, chaos at the Kern County Registrar of Voter’s Office have thrown into doubt how correctly ballots have been counted.

A 20 vote difference

Senator Brian Jones. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

“Every vote should be counted, period,” said the Senators in a 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.

“There reportedly are 14 ‘cured’ ballots that were submitted in Fresno County yesterday, which have yet to be counted. Reports also are swirling that there’s a handful of uncounted ballots in Kings County still remaining and 600 to 800 uncounted ballots in Tulare County still remaining.

“Additionally, the lack of transparency and confusion in the Kern County Registrar of Voter’s Office has been alarming. Incorrect postings of remaining ballots, vote machine break-downs, floating deadlines for curing ballots, and mismanagement of staff have all plagued the Kern County Registrar of Voters Office since election night. Right now, there is no faith that the Kern County vote count is anywhere done nor accurate.

“It would be unfair and yet another slight to the residents of the Central Valley for the Senate to rush the seating of either Hurtado or Shepard until there is uniform confidence that every vote has been counted in this razor thin race. We call upon our 37 colleagues of both parties in the Senate to not jam through a swearing-in for Senate District 16 that the courts may later have to reverse.”

Senator Scott Wilk. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Political experts noted on Friday that a swearing in was unlikely to happen without the vote being officially called, and that the leading party would unlikely have a swearing-in of either Hurtado or Shepard until it was officially decided.

“No one wants to go through that sort of embarrassing back-track,” noted Tony Villi, a close-elections researcher who tracks close state-level legislative elections, to the Globe on Friday. “It’s at 20 votes right now. Even if all the votes were in, a recount could easily change that. I understand that both parties are fighting for their interests, but nothing has been declared yet, so they’re both still in for the ride.

“And remember, both sides want a declared victor very soon, as the California session comes back up next month. No one wants a decision by a drawing of lots, which is the official vote tie-breaker in California should there be a tie.”

As of Friday afternoon, the race still remains undecided.

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Evan Symon
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5 thoughts on “Senators Wilk, Jones Ask Senate To Hold Off On Swearing In D-16 Senate Winner With Race Still Undecided

  1. So the Democrats need more time to find more ballots, huh???
    This is a travesty and it’s bad enough that Election Day has turned into Election Season, but the fact that they can’t arrive at a result within a day max calls the entire process into question…
    The “improvements” in election processes that have been implemented under Democrat rule, have been proven to be as unmitigated a disaster as Democrat policies have been to the quality of life in California….
    Get rid of Padilla’s “Dumb Onion” electronic voting systems and all their security exploits and go back to precinct-based, paper ballots that are counted at the local level and reported up to the county and the state…

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