The votes are in for the 32nd Assembly District seat and it looks like teacher and farmer Pedro Rios will go head-to-head against incumbent Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield in the November elections.
Salas maintained a commanding lead as expected with a final count of 9,926 votes, followed by Rios with 8,067 and Romeo Agbalog with 5,106.
Those numbers gave Salas 43 percent of the vote, Rios 34.9 percent and Agbalog 22.1 percent.
The district includes Kings County and more than a third of southwestern Kern County. It's heavily Latino and nearly one in two registered voters is a Democrat.
New state primary rules send only the race's top two vote earners on to the November general election -- but even a veteran consultant declined Tuesday to predict which Republican will face Salas.
"I think people are tired of reruns but he has the name recognition. Can they relate the name I.D. to having lost before? Time will tell," Republican consultant Stan Harper said of Rios, a teacher and farmer who beat fellow Republican Jon McQuiston in the 2012 primary but lost to Salas in a muddy general election.
Agbalog, a Delano Union School District trustee and staffer for state Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, has landed big endorsements -- including one from his boss, another from Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Visalia, and a third from former Congressman Bill Thomas R-Bakersfield.
After spending heavily in recent weeks, Agbalog found himself roughly even with Rios in fundraising on Friday. The men had around $30,000 apiece going into the race's final weekend.
Salas is in a fundraising galaxy far, far away -- having amassed more than $580,000 by late Friday.
In a recent conversation, Rios said he was planning to get through Tuesday before turning his attention to November.
He remained guardedly optimistic about early results.
"Obviously we still have a long night. You know how that goes," Rios said. "We're just hoping now that it remains like this, but I've been in this boat before. Anything can happen."
Agbalog said he doesn't expect Rios' name recognition from 2012 to keep him in second place when votes from later on in the contest get counted.
"The poll votes have not been tabulated yet," Agbalog said. "I think that once you start to see more absentee ballots come through, where some of my mail pieces hit, we may be able to pick some of those up."
Salas pronounced himself awed by voters' confidence.
"I feel completely humbled by the amount of support we've been receiving from the community. It's a good feeling," Salas said. "We've been consistent about our message -- more water, more jobs, better schools and safer neighborhoods."
Two of the race's top issues have been water and hydraulic fracturing, the controversial but longstanding oil field practice known as "fracking."
Agbalog came out against a San Joaquin River Delta restoration, but Salas said any water bond approved will likely contain compromises on issues like this.
Agbalog and Rios both have said that if in office, they would have opposed Senate Bill 4, the first-ever state fracking regulation approved last year.
Salas has said he abstained from voting on SB 4 because he didn't think the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources had time to examine the issue.