On Wednesday morning, Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) achieved a plurality of votes against Democratic rival Elizabeth Romero to win the 28th District State Senate seat.
While votes are still being counted, Melendez has pulled far enough away for a victory. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, Melendez currently has 95,378 votes, or 55.9% of the total. Meanwhile Romero has 75,248, or 44.1%.
Amid a celebration at her house, warranted by coronavirus social distancing, Melendez celebrated the news of the victory to Queen’s “We Are the Champions” before giving a short speech.
“I think that the voters in this district took a look at both candidates and recognized which one understood what they need and their concerns and voted for that candidate,” said Melendez. “I’m so proud that they trust me to continue representing them.”
Romero has yet to concede the race as of Wednesday afternoon.
The Senate seat had been vacant since last year when former Senator Jeff Stone resigned to take a position with the Trump Administration in Washington. Although many candidates soon came forward in the Riverside County district, only Melendez, UC Riverside assistant Vice Chancellor and Coachella Valley Unified School District Board Member Elizabeth Romero, and Joy Silver had enough support in the primaries to have large percentages of the vote in the March primary.
Melendez’s early over 40% lead in the primary never let up despite the 28th Senate District gaining more Democratic voters in recent years. Melendez, with name recognition in the district, a set GOP base, and a surprisingly adaptiveness to primarily remote campaigning following the coronavirus restrictions, easily outdid Romero, who herself gave a spirited campaign and kept the race close for the last two months, at some points even looking like she could pull off a possible upset victory. However, in the end, Melendez pulled through as mail-in ballots, a primary voting tool of GOP voters in the district, brought in more votes than in-person voting centers, ultimately resulting in her May 12th special election victory.
Melendez will now have to give up her 67th Assembly District seat, which will remain vacant until the November election. It is unknown at this time who the possible Republican and Democratic candidates will be.