Assembly District 36 Primary Election Tight Race

Assembly District 36 Primary Election Tight Race

Election Outcomes: Narrow Primary Points to Upcoming Assembly District 36 Contest In the race sparked by the departure of veteran Democratic Assembly member Eduardo Garcia, preliminary results from Tuesday night suggest a lead for Republican Jeff Gonzalez among a packed field, alongside a handful of Democratic contenders jockeying to secure their advance to the general election round.

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Based on the figures revealed on the website of the California Secretary of State on Tuesday evening, Gonzalez positioned at the forefront with a tally of 9,034 votes, equating to 32.7% of the over 27,000 votes logged in the battle for representation of Assembly District 36, spanning the east of Coachella Valley.

Amid the anticipation of additional votes, a clutch of Democratic hopefuls were still in contention for the subsequent slot to proceed to the November ballot: Jose "Joey" Acuña Jr. trailed in second with 5,143 votes or 18.6%, closely followed by Edgard Garcia with 4,584 votes or 16.6%.

Overall, Democrats claimed 57% of the vote against the two Republicans' 43%.

The competition escalated after Garcia, a Coachella Democrat who gained a seat in the California Legislature in 2014, declared last year he would not pursue re-election, citing a desire for more family time after years of commuting to Sacramento. His decision was announced shortly after the window closed for incumbents to register for re-election.

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In the wake of the most recent redistricting, Garcia has represented Assembly District 36, an expanse inclusive of Coachella, Indio, and beyond that, Coachella Valley's eastern territories, stretching to Riverside County's eastern fringe up to the Arizona border. Also featured within its bounds are Imperial County in its entirety and a fraction of eastern San Bernardino County. Garcia secured re-election against Republican Ian Weeks in 2022 — now a contender for the 25th Congressional District — by garnering 53.4% of the votes.

Seven aspirants, counting five Democrats and two Republicans, threw their hats into the primary ring. Under the electoral system of California, the primary's top pair of vote-getters, regardless of their party affiliations, will vie in the November general election.

The Aspirants Favored by Garcia is Acuña, a Democrat with a history on the Coachella Valley Unified School District Board as a trustee since 2014, and a prior stint from 1992 to 2000. Acuña has also clinched endorsements from other Riverside County officeholders, like Supervisor V. Manuel Perez and Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez, alongside Garcia.

Entering the fray from the valley is Democrat Waymond Fermon, with a tenure on the Indio City Council dating back to 2018. In 2022, Fermon marked a milestone as Indio’s inaugural Black mayor throughout the city’s yearly leadership rotation. Additionally, he serves as a correctional officer at Calipatria State Prison in Imperial County. Preliminary Tuesday night counts showed Fermon with 2,363 votes or 8.5%.

The Republicans aiming for the Assembly seat include Gonzalez, an Indio entrepreneur and ex-Marine, who has secured seminal endorsements from right-leaning figures, namely U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona; several Republican California Legislature members; and Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco.

Gonzalez previously vied against Garcia in 2018 for Assembly District 56, the pre-redistricting designation, making it to the general election but suffering defeat with 35.2% of the vote compared to Garcia's 64.8%.

Another Democratic contender, Tomas Oliva of the El Centro City Council since 2018, campaigns from his Imperial County base. Additionally, Oliva operates as a senior field representative for U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Indio, whose congressional district significantly encompasses Assembly District 36. Oliva's initial tally on Tuesday stood at 2,155 votes or 7.8%.

The other Republican participant, Kalin Morse, hails from Westmoreland as a nonprofit leader, with preliminary Tuesday results indicating him amassing 2,819 votes or 10.2%.

Garcia, the candidate in third as per Tuesday's results, is an attorney and El Centro City Council member since 2015. Additionally, he serves as the district director for Imperial County's League of California Cities since 2021.

Democrat Eric Rodriguez, who took a seat on the Central Union High School District Board in El Centro in 2020, secured 1,563 votes based on early results. Rodriguez, formerly an El Centro police officer, is presently employed by the Imperial County Child Protective Services in their Emergency Response Unit.

Voter registration records reveal Democrats constitute 43.8% of the district's electorate, with Republicans making up approximately 27.3%. A noteworthy portion of voters—21.3%—do not affiliate with any party.

The decisive general election is set for November 5.

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