Jim Nielsen is heading back to the Legislature. The Gerber Republican easily won election to the vacant 4th Senate District seat in a special contest held Tuesday. He led Democrat Mickey Harrington by double digits, 66.5 percent to 33.5 percent, in early returns. The Associated Press called the contest for Nielsen about 10 p.m.
Nielsen, who spent the last four years representing the 2nd Assembly District, served as Senate GOP leader during an earlier stint in the state Legislature in the 1980s. He succeeds former Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, who stepped down ahead of his election to Congress.
Nielsen will be eligible for two full four-year terms in the Senate after filling out LaMalfa's remaining two years representing the safe Republican Northern California district, which covers all or part of a dozen counties.