Lifquist, Johnson to face off in November

Primary yields few changes in Kern County leadership

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

With no local seats or measures at stake, Ridgecrest election volunteers reported one of the lowest voter turnouts in recent memory for last week’s primary election. The last statement of votes cast (not yet released for this election) indicated that more and more voters are choosing to cast their ballots via absentee form — and Ridgecrest has one of the highest concentrations of absentee voters in Kern County.

Most county races — including auditor, district attorney, sheriff and treasurer — went uncontested. Federal and state elected officials easily held onto their seats (see related story, this page).

The notable exception was for assessor-recorder, with Jon Lifquist, Russel Johnson and Lupe Esquivas Jr. vying for the seat currently held by the retiring James Fitch. Lifquist, with 44.2 percent of voter support, and Johnson, with 39.5-percent support, will face off in the November election.

Political commentators have noted that one element that could potentially impact the race is that Johnson will have to decide whether he wants to run for the county office or for another term on the Bakersfield City Council — since his seat is up this year.

The race was uncharacteristically competitive this season, with Lifquist challenging Johnson’s lack of qualification for the job (Johnson does not currently hold the required appraiser’s license), and Johnson stating that the office needs a culture change that can only come from an outsider.

At press time, most recent campaign filings were not available. But previous filings indicated that Johnson had raised more money. Lifquist had received endorsements from his predecessor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, state Assemblywoman Shannon Grove and Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason. Johnson’s high-profile endorsements include those of many Bakersfield leaders and three Ridgecrest City Councilmen.

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Story First Published: 2014-06-11