Incumbent David Couch decisively defended his seat on the Board of Supervisors Tuesday night, overcoming a disruptive redistricting process that threatened to change the dynamic of the board — and most likely still will.
Couch, comfortably above the 50 percent mark most of the night, finished with 47.6 percent of the vote, with Delano Mayor Grace Vallejo taking 34.2 percent and Lamont Chamber of Commerce President Jose Gonzalez earning 18.1 percent.
"I learned early on this was going to be a race about race and ethnicity and I believe the people in the 4th District deserved more," Couch said late Tuesday, at his election night party.
"I feel happy that the people responded to a positive campaign about our accomplishments and our abilities. We're going to focus on the fundamentals, the ABCs of government, and try to do the basics as well as we can before we get fancy."
The 4th District race was the first election since the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund successfully sued the county, forcing supervisors to redraw district lines.
In the ruling, a U.S. District Court judge found that the 2011 supervisorial district boundaries violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act by splitting the Latino vote.
At the time of the ruling, in February 2018, the Board of Supervisors contained one Latina supervisor, Leticia Perez, despite having a 53 percent Latino population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The lawsuit resulted in the 4th District changing into a Latino-majority district, and it forced Couch to defend his seat two years early.
In the closely-watched race, Couch attempted to parlay his years of experience as supervisor to his advantage. He campaigned as the candidate who could get things done for the disadvantaged communities in the 4th District.
He faced an uphill battle. More than twice as many voters registered as Democrat than registered as Republican in the 4th District.
On Tuesday, Couch overcame the demographic challenge.
Vallejo came into the race after being nominated by a group of 21 Democratic and Latino leaders during an April meeting at Bill Lee’s Restaurant. During the meeting, other potential Latino candidates reportedly dropped their fledgling bids after a decision by the committee.
Gonzalez’s entry into the race came as a surprise to many. It added to the drama of the race, as elections experts had long warned that multiple Latino candidates on the ballot could dilute the Latino vote enough to allow Couch to win.
Notably, the plaintiffs in the MALDEF lawsuit endorsed Gonzalez.
And, in the end, their predictions appear to have turned out to be true. If Vallejo had received every vote Gonzalez earned, she would have garnered 52 percent of the vote.