Even though two counties continue recounting votes in state Senate District 16, incumbent Melissa Hurtado is claiming victory.
“While both our campaigns have requested the review of additional election materials, it is clear the recount process will not change the certified winner, Melissa Hurtado,” Lisa Gasperoni, Hurtado’s campaign consultant, said in a news release.
Hurtado, D-Bakersfield, won by a 20 vote margin after the state certified the election Dec. 16. Kern County discovered four more ballots in the district after certification. That count netted two votes for Hurtado, to expand her lead to 22.
Recounting in the four counties that comprise Senate District 16 netted Shepard, R-Porterville, eight votes, whittling Hurtado’s lead to 14. That is not enough to overturn the election.
“Mr. Shepard can continue to drag out the process with no plausible pathway to claiming the lead or sue local election officials in counties he previously praised because they failed to produce the outcome he wanted. Mr. Shepard’s other option is to respect the voters in reflecting that close elections, while never easy, eventually must come to an end,” Gasperoni said.
The race was one of the closest in the history of the state Legislature, with Hurtado winning by seven-thousandths of a percent among the nearly 137,000 ballots cast.
Tulare County finished its count of votes and challenges to invalid signatures. On Thursday, a manual inspection of votes eliminated one Hurtado vote. The ballot showed that a mark for Hurtado was crossed out.
Previous recount results saw Fresno County net three more votes for Shepard; Kings County — two for Shepard; no change in Kern County; and with the update from Tulare County, three net votes for Shepard.
After Tulare finished Thursday, it received a hand-written request from Shepard campaign advisor Austin Gilbert to manually inspect the ballots. That process will start Monday.
Hurtado also requested a recount in Kern County, after they completed Shepard’s request to inspect only a portion of ballots in that county. Kern County says they are separating the ballots, and a recount will start next week.
Hurtado was sworn into office on Dec. 10, five days after the date set by the state Constitution for the start of the Senate session. Senate Pro Team Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, cited the closeness of the race and the fact the race had not been certified, as reasons for the delay.
The Senate resumed this week, and Hurtado has already introduced a new bill, State Water Accountability Act (SB 66).
“We need to be sure we can depend on the accuracy of the data the State is using to make water decisions to ensure that people don’t have to go without water needlessly. I am anticipating results from an audit of the state’s data reliability collection tools this spring, and hope it leads us towards more robust water accountability,” Hurtado said in a news release about SB 66.