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GOP State Senate Leaders Want to Block Hurtado Victory

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GOP state Senators Scott Wilk (left) and Brian Jones want to hold off on seating Democrat Melissa Hurtado to the Senate. (GV Wire Composite/David Rodriguez)
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Two Republican state Senate leaders are asking their colleagues not to seat Sen. Melissa Hurtado, a day after she locked up a victory by 20 votes.

Wilk and Jones claimed, without providing evidence, that hundreds of ballots are yet to be counted. Asked for clarification, a Jones spokeswoman said it is based on “reports swirling on the ground.”

With all four counties in Senate District 16 certifying the election by the Thursday deadline, Hurtado defeated David Shepard, R-Porterville, by 0.007% — seven-thousandths of a percent. According to state historian Alex Vassar, it is the second-closest state race by percentage in history.

That is too close for current Senate Minority Leader Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and incoming leader Brian Jones, R-Santee.

“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,” the two said in a joint news release.

“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.”

Neither Hurtado, a Bakersfield Democrat, nor Shepard was seated when the Senate convened for a special session Monday. The Senate next meets on Jan. 4.

Senate Leader Says Results Show Hurtado Won

Senate President pro-Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) dismissed the GOP claims by noting that the four counties had certified their election results.
“Local elections officials in Senate District 16 have issued final certifications that the count is ‘full, true, and correct,’ ” Atkins told GV Wire. “The certified results show Melissa Hurtado received the most votes to represent Senate District 16 and has won re-election to the State Senate.”

GOP Calls Out County Offices

Wilk and Jones claimed, without providing evidence, that hundreds of ballots are yet to be counted. Asked for clarification, a Jones spokeswoman said it is based on “reports swirling on the ground.”

They said that “600 to 800 uncounted ballots” remain in Tulare County. Registrar Michelle Baldwin did not respond to GV Wire’s request for comment.

The GOP leaders said that “14 ‘cured’ ballots … were submitted in Fresno County yesterday, which have yet to be counted.”

County election offices are to reach out to voters to “cure” ballots, if there is a defect or no signature. They can be returned up to two days before certification to be legally counted.

Fresno County Clerk James Kus said 11 cure letters came after Thursday’s deadline.

“Letters received after the completion of tabulation and reporting of the certification will not be processed, unfortunately, as is true of any election material received after deadline,” Kus said.

Kings County Registrar Says GOP Claims Are ‘Incorrect’

Wilk and Jones also said a “handful” of uncounted votes remained in Kings County.

“The information they have is incorrect,” an incensed Kings County Registrar Lupe Villa said, after being told of the leaders’ claims.

Villa said there were 147 ballots that were uncured before certification.

The two senators did not levy any allegations of uncounted votes in Kern County, but did heavily criticize the process.

“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,” Wilk and Jones said.

Kern County Clerk Mary Bedard did not respond to a request for comment.

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email