Elections yield shift in local seats, status quo in county

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Elections yield shift in local seats, status quo in countyVoters pack the Inyokern Baptist Church polling place on Tuesday evening — Photo by Laura Austin

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An observed peak in turnout for a mid-term November General Election saw shakeups in local elections, a sweeping victory for incumbents in the county, and at least one tax measure that could leave a continued void in public safety funding for unincorporated areas of the county.

Although final numbers will not be available until the statement of votes cast is filed (required within 30 days of an election), Kern County Elections Chief Karen Rhea has gone on record predicting that voter turnout will outpace the 2014 mid-term — when only 39.2 percent of Kern County’s registered voters cast ballots.

Even though Kern County’s 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason is not up for re-election until 2020, the three supervisors whose seats were up this cycle each defeated their opponents by broad margins.

The significance of these victories is accentuated by the recent resolution of a lengthy (and expensive) challenge by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, which sued Kern County for allegedly marginalizing the votes of hispanic citizens.

Earlier this year, a judge ordered county and MALDEF representatives to negotiate new boundaries for supervisor districts, balancing county populations while preserving at least two of the five districts with high concentrations of hispanic voters. Although MALDEF and the county approved new district lines, incumbents in all three seats up for election maintained voter approval for office.

Indian Wells Valley voters had an atypical election cycle, with only three of our six elected bodies yielding challenges for available seats. (Incumbents for Sierra Sands Unified School District Board of Trustees, Indian Wells Valley Airport Board and Inyokern Community Services District will automatically be appointed).

Voters favored challengers for the two available seats on the IWV Water District Board of Directors, where Stan Rajtora and David Saint-Amand unseated incumbents Chuck Griffin and Peter Brown.

That result of that election will trigger a change in the IWVWD’s delegate on the IWV Groundwater Authority, a role Brown had filled since the inception of the governing body.

Peggy Breeden won her third two-year term as Ridgecrest Mayor, capturing 3,342 votes (54.53 percent) compared to 2,787 votes (45.47 percent) for Tom Wiknich.

City Council challenger Loren Scott Hayman was top vote-getter, with 3,600 votes (34.99 percent) to earn one of two available four-year seats on the council. Incumbent Mike Mower, with 2,500 votes (24.3 percent), captured the second seat, edging out Steven Morgan, who received 2,345 votes, and Reese Hogg III, with 1,845 votes.

Measures J and K, which would have allowed cultivation and sales of medical and recreational marijuana in unincorporated areas of the county, were both defeated by voters.

Measure I, the 1-cent sales tax measure that would have been applied to incorporated areas of the county to support public safety and other services, was also defeated.

Sheriff Donny Youngblood expressed his disappointment on Election Night, and said that his department must now address how to meet the needs of public safety without the anticipated $20 million in revenue the measure would have generated.

Watch future editions of the News Review for more information on public safety issues. For additional Kern County election results, view kernvote.com.

Story First Published: 2018-11-09