Andy Vidak, the 14th California Senate District's Republican incumbent, may be feeling pretty comfortable on this primary Election Night.
Incumbents have historically done well in the 14th, and despite the fact that Democrats enjoy a 20 percent registration advantage over Republicans in the district, the 52-year-old Vidak remains the clear favorite.
Vidak is opposed by three Democrats, and despite his considerable lead, if one added up the early votes for the three Dems, their combined numbers slightly edged Vidak's total. But that didn't last.
The three could not hold onto that combined lead as the night progressed, and Vidak's lead grew until it was hovering around 55 percent.
The central question of the race was a simple one: Who, among the three Democrats opposing him in Tuesday's primary, will face Vidak in November?
The senator was in Sacramento Tuesday, a campaign staffer said. He was not available for a phone comment, but he was able to email a short statement.
"I was honored to receive strong support to continue on to the November election," Vidak said. "I look forward to connecting with the voters of my district and sharing my record of being an independent voice while pushing back on the Sacramento elites who ignore our Valley."
With 269 of 399 precincts reporting districtwide, as of 12:09 a.m. Wednesday, the Hanford cherry farmer was pulling 54.5 percent.
In second was Sanger City Council member Melissa Hurtado, with 23.7 percent. Trailing in third with 13.9 percent was Abigail Solis, a member of the Earlimart School District board of trustees.
Ruben Macareno, a native of Farmersville and former chairman of the Tulare County Democratic Central Committee, was bringing up the rear with 7.9 percent of the tally.
The 14th District — which covers portions of Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties, including the cities of Arvin, Delano, McFarland, Shafter, Wasco and a substantial portion of Bakersfield — is 71 percent Latino.
Yet they've not been able to cash it in with a Democratic win for some years.
Vidak first won the office in a 2013 special election following Michael J. Rubio's abrupt resignation in February of that year. In May, Vidak outpolled four others, including three Democrats, and then defeated Leticia Perez in the July runoff.
In 2014, this time with the benefit of incumbency, Vidak defeated another Democrat, Luis Chavez, 54.1 percent to 45.9 percent, to win his first full four-year term.
Now it's 2018, and a fresh batch of Democrats have lined up against him. Could their combined strength make the difference this time around? As the night turned to morning Wednesday, it didn't appear so.
16th State Senate
Former state Assemblywoman Shannon Grove was enjoying Election Night at Centro 18 in downtown Bakersfield, watching the results and chatting with Superior Court candidate Chad Louie and lots of friends and supporters.
By 10:18 p.m. Grove seemed to be heading for a blowout win in the race for the 16th Senate District seat that Jean Fuller is vacating due to term limits later this year.
At just after midnight, Grove held 59.8 percent of the votes with 303 of 737 precincts partially reporting districtwide.
Democrat Ruth Musser-Lopez, an archaeologist and teacher who lives in Needles, where she served on the city council, was holding a distant second with 28.8 percent.
And Republican Gregory Tatum, a church pastor who ran for mayor of Bakersfield in 2016, was holding 12.2 percent of the early votes.
Karen Rhea, the county's assistant registrar of voters, said vote tallies did not always add up to exactly 100 percent because some people voted for both candidates, some neither, and others wrote in their own choice.
State primary rules send the top two vote-getters — regardless of party — to the general election, so it appeared Musser-Lopez will likely share the November ballot with Grove.
Grove declined to comment on her early lead but complimented her campaign team Tuesday.
"We're excited about the team and how hard they've worked," she said.
Musser-Lopez said she waited to pull papers until she determined that no other Democrat was entering the race.
As she watched the results Tuesday, she said it would be a great privilege to be among the top two vote-getters "with the right to move forward into the midterm race to be decided in November.
"I want to thank those who put their trust in me and took the time to go vote," she said in a statement.