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Defeated Indio Mayor Mike Wilson Files for Recount

Close Election in Riverside Triggers Fresh Accounting

By Laura Hauther, December 12, 2018 7:00 am

Bill Essayli lost to Sabrina Cervantes in a tight race for the 60th Assembly District seat in Riverside County. He has declined to seek a recount.

Indio Mayor Mike Wilson made good on his promise to file for a recount in the contentious election for Indio District 2 City Council race this Tuesday. Waymond Fermon was declared the winner when the Riverside County Registrar released its final certified count last Friday.

Fermon won by 148 votes, a margin of 4 percent. On Saturday, Fermon released a statement announcing his victory:

“We look forward to empowering our residents to create a stronger alliance within their community. On Wednesday 12th, I will be sworn in as your new Indio City Council Member for District 2.”

Indio’s Administrative Services Manager PJ Gagajena told local TV station KESQ that the recount will not delay the ceremony.

Wilson is ready to pay the bill for the exacting recount process that could take as long as a month. The count for this election will involve almost 3,800 votes and the Registrar is required to dedicate six hours a day during their regular five-day work week to get the job done.

The Registrar told the Desert Sun that Wilson will have to lay out about $2,632 just for the first day of ballot counting, though she declined to estimate a final cost.

Wilson has complained about the practice of ballot harvesting that played such a prominent role in Democrat’s sweeping victory in California elections. Democrats flipped a total of 40 congressional seats in 2018, the last one certified only this Thursday when Republican Rep. David Valadao lost to Democrat TJ Cox in the 21st Congressional District.

But in Indio, so far there is no evidence of ballot harvesting and Wilson has not come out with any support for his claims.

Fermon’s director of voter engagement, Job Huerta issued a statement clarifying that the campaign offered to deliver ballots, but no voter “requested or received ballot assistance from our team.”

Bill Essayli, who lost to Sabrina Cervantes in another extremely tight race, this for the 60th Assembly District seat in Riverside County, is not going to pursue a recount despite his campaign’s close scrutiny of the vote count, down to individual signatures on ballots.

He also claimed the controversial practice of ballot harvesting helped his opponent win.

Ballot harvesting or bundling was largely a tactic used by Democrats in the midterms but Matt Fleming, a spokesman for the California GOP admitted in a Fox News interview Republicans used the practice as well, stating:

“We were well aware of this, we even did it ourselves, we pay attention to election laws.”

Laura Hauther

Laura Hauther is a veteran reporter for KPFK and has written for several LA weekly newspapers.
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