Zimmer, Youngblood win primary

Top officials discuss path forward for public safety

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Zimmer, Youngblood  win primaryNewly elected District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer addresses the media Tuesday night in Bakersfield after early returns indicate her victory in the primary. — Photo by Laura Austin

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Although results of the June Primary Election will not be certified by the Kern County Elections division for another four weeks, candidates in the race for District Attorney’s and Sheriff’s offices, who took and held early leads, have unofficially begun celebrating their wins.

“I’m just very happy that I’m in the position I’m in, and that the voters, I think, have chosen me as the next district attorney,” Cynthia Zimmer said Wednesday morning in an interview with Bakersfield-based television station KGET.

Early results, which did not include the unadjudicated ballots remaining to be processed, show that Zimmer captured 54 percent of the vote to challenger Scott Spielman’s 46 percent.

However, official numbers on the county elections division page show that Zimmer has not commanded the necessary 50-percent-plus-1 vote required to forego a runoff in November. “The reason they don’t reflect that is because someone could have written someone in,” said Elections Official Karen Rhea, who added that not all ballots had been accounted for.

“So with no ‘official’ write-in candidate, it won’t be possible for either of the candidates to receive less than 50 percent of the vote.”

During her television interview on Wednesday, Zimmer was asked whether Spielman will remain in the No. 2 position in the DA’s office when she is sworn in next January.

“I hope he stays with the office, of course. I think he has a lot of talent and a lot of experience,” said Zimmer. “But I will have my own transition team and my own group of people who will help me do what we need to do to make Kern County safer.”

She noted that 2017, with 101 homicides, was the deadliest year on record for Kern County. “That is unacceptable, and I’m going to turn my attention immediately toward violent crime.”

Zimmer said that with the authority to move resources around, she would like to see the DA’s office work more proactively with law enforcement on things like DNA evidence analysis, wire taps and grand jury investigations.

Right now, the DA waits for police to bring him or her a murder case to try. “Instead of waiting for them to come to us, I would like to look at who is out there committing these violent crimes.”

She said her top three priorities would be reducing violent crime, engaging victims in outlying areas to make them feel safer and working with legislators to repeal the laws that have made it more difficult to prosecute and incarcerate offenders.

“Right now I can no longer send a drug dealer to prison,” said Zimmer. “I think drug dealers need to go to prison.”

Youngblood is the first in Kern County history to win a fourth term in office, winning 67 percent of the vote to Justin Fleeman’s 33 percent.

“I think those numbers are pretty insurmountable,” said Youngblood. “I was a little bit surprised to see the results, but a lot of people in my camp were not.”

He said Indian Wells Valley residents are already asking him if he still plans to spend more time in Ridgecrest and re-open the jail.

“That was not a political promise, I still intend to ask for money for the jail.” Youngblood made the unpopular decision to close the jail in 2016, citing devastating revenue losses, and subsequent cuts, countywide.

However, he reported to the News Review during the campaign that revenues are up, that he is working with a new county administrative officer and that he believes he has the support of a majority of members on the Board of Supervisors to authorize additional funding.

Budget hearings are expected to be held during July and August in Bakersfield. “Believe me, I’m going to get those dates out to you as soon as I know them, because I want the board to hear from people in Ridgecrest.”

As with the race for DA, Youngblood was facing opposition by one of his top deputies. But in the case of the sheriff race, the campaign trail dredged up negativity on a personal level, said Youngblood.

“You know, it’s too early for me to speculate about what may or may not happen,” he said. Fleeman is still out on leave, and Youngblood declined to disclose when he was coming back or whether he would be moved to a different assignment.

“He and I had a conversation [Tuesday], and we will just have to see how this goes. He was a very high-level person in this organization, with a lot of trust and a lot of authority and information. So there is a lot to digest here,” said Youngblood.

“It’s too early to make a decision about anything.”

Story First Published: 2018-06-08