Incumbent state Sen. Andy Vidak out-polled Fresno Unified School District trustee Luis Chavez nearly two-to-one in the 14th Senate District race Tuesday, with only vote-by-mail ballots tallied.
Around 11:30 p.m., with final election night results from Tulare County and 72 of 114 precincts reporting in Kern County, Vidak retained a commanding lead.
The Hanford Republican led with 28,718 votes to Chavez’s 17,296, a commanding lead of 62.4 percent to the Democrat’s 37.6 percent as of 3:08 a.m. Wednesday.
New state primary rules send a race’s top two vote-getters to the general election — making Tuesday’s contest less a cliff-hanger than a potentialpredictor of what might happen in November.
The district is heavily Latino, with nearly 47 percent of registered voters being Democrats compared to 30 percent registered as Republicans, and is considered key to GOP rebuilding in a state where Dems hold all executive offices.
Poll watchers said candidates will perform differently in a general election with better turnout.
“I don’t think this election is going to have much credibility because the turnout is undoubtedly so low,” said Candi Easter, chair of the Kern County Democratic Central Committee.
Chavez’s campaign manager, Mark Scozzari, was optimistic as the night's results began coming in.
“As long as we’re within striking distance, we’re comfortable," Scozzari said. "Our campaign really kicks off June 4."
Neither Vidak nor his campaign manager responded to requests for comment.
Republican consultant Stan Harper picked Vidak this fall.
“Being an ag person, being an oil person, he has good constituent work going,” Harper said. “Unless there’s a tremendously heavy Democratic turnout in November, I don’t see Vidak losing.”
A key issue in the race was the proposed water bond. Vidak co-authored an alternative that trims it by $1.9 billion.
Chavez promised he’d help broker a water bond compromise if elected.
The candidates also differ on hydraulic fracturing, the controversial but highly effective oil extraction technique recently regulated by state Senate Bill 4.
Chavez thought SB 4 was a good compromise on fracking regulation. Vidak sees it as a jobs killer.