Republican Cynthia Zimmer defeated liberal Scott Spielman in Tuesday's race for Kern County District Attorney. Do I have that right?

No. No, I do not.

Zimmer is a conservative Republican, no question, but so is Spielman. Few voters thought otherwise, I'm sure, but one might still wonder if the GOP flag waving unambiguously over the Zimmer camp had anything to do with her decisive victory.

Yes, I know District Attorney is a nonpartisan office.

Consider that Zimmer's endorsers included the man I'd nominate as the most partisan Republican in America today, President Trump's staunchest ally in Congress, Rep. Kevin McCarthy. The House majority leader starred in vote-for-Zimmer television ads that aired the week before the election. Good choice: McCarthy won almost 70 percent of the vote in his House race Tuesday, and that popularity has to have rubbed off a little.

Former Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, almost surely headed to the California Senate this fall, was a strong and visible supporter of Zimmer as well, and they don't come any more vocal in their conservative views.

Like Zimmer, they're both clients, past or present, of Western Pacific Research, a decades-old political consulting firm founded by the late Mark Abernathy and fronted now by his widow Cathy Abernathy. WPR is, and always has been, associated with Republican candidates.

In an election-day exercise where voters are generally accustomed to seeing clearly delineated choices — Ds and Rs next to the names on their ballots — where does that leave Spielman? Trying to claim everything on the periphery, that's where. 

Spielman had the audacity to accept and promote the endorsements of Democrats like former Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, as well as Republicans like state Sen. Andy Vidak, and independents.

In this hyperpartisan environment, fueled by a combative president, where compromise goes against the authorized us-vs.-them narrative, seeming solidarity with the Republican Party may have made the difference for Zimmer.

• Might Zimmer's election prompt a wave of turnover among prosecutors at the DA's office? A surprising number of prosecutors followed the lead of outgoing DA Lisa Green and came out, publicly or privately, for Spielman. Now they get to work under DA Zimmer.

Awkward? Maybe. A lot depends on Zimmer's willingness to try and put them at ease. She might be perfectly happy to see some of them go, though, so that she can make her own hires. But the DA's office is understaffed and good prosecutors aren't hanging like fruit on trees.

Prosecutors who have toyed with the idea of entering private practice might see Zimmer's victory as a push in that direction.

I should note here that Zimmer had her supporters in the DA's office, too. One was Cole McKnight, who came up short in his effort to oust Superior Court Judge John "Lance" Fielder and will presumably keep his old job.

• Assemblyman Rudy Salas, running for a third term as District 32 assemblyman, got a wakeup call Tuesday from challenger Justin Mendes, a Hanford city councilman and staffer for Congressman David Valadao. Mendes, a Republican, won 51.8 percent of the vote to the Democrat's 48.2 percent.

Salas is not terribly worried about their November rematch, he says.

He called his totals a "strong showing for a primary election" with low voter turnout.

He points out that, in the 2012 primary, the three Republicans he faced, combined, outperformed Salas by 5 percentage points in the AD 32 race, but Salas won by 6 percent in the one that counted five months later.

In the 2014 primary, two Republicans beat Salas in the AD 32 race by 12 percent but Salas won in November by a margin of 9 percent — despite the lowest Democratic turnout since World War II.

Now, in the 2018 primary, Mendes beat Salas by 866 votes, or more than 3 percent

His "strong work ethic and the inevitable increased turnout for November bodes well," Salas told me by way of text message. But he'll have to work for it, he added.

Indeed he will. Mendes is better funded than were Salas' rivals in 2012, 2014 and 2016 (when he won easily against a write-in candidate), and in the general Salas surely captured some of the vote that went to Republicans eliminated in the primary.

But he's right about this: Turnout among Democrats and independents will be the single biggest factor in his quest for a fourth term.

Contact The Californian’s Robert Price at 661-395-7399, rprice@bakersfield.com or on Twitter: @stubblebuzz. His column typically appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; the views expressed are his own.

(1) comment

There are some very exciting opportunities for these unhappy Spielman deputies in some really exciting industries such as fast food, retail and big box stores.

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