Brian Dahle won Tuesday night’s special election for California’s 1st District Senate seat, earning the position that represents a wide swath of the state’s northeastern tier from Redding to Placerville.
The assemblyman from Bieber defeated his Republican opponent, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley of Rocklin, 53.1 percent to 46.9 percent – a lead of roughly 8,000 votes – according to the California Secretary of State’s Office as of around midnight Tuesday. About 133,000 votes were tallied in the election-night reporting, which are preliminary.
Just after 11 p.m., Kiley conceded the race in a Facebook post, saying the remaining votes weren’t enough to cover the ground gained by Dahle as results trickled in Tuesday night. He congratulated Dahle, adding “I wish him the best in his new position.”
Dahle said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee that his top priorities as state senator are reducing healthcare costs, driving the cost of living down in California and addressing crime.
“I’ve represented the northern half of the district for six years, and I did really strong there and not so strong in the southern part” during the special election primary, he said. “We worked really hard to educate the voters of who I am and what I’m about and it paid off.
Voting largely followed each assemblyman’s district, as much as it was split between Dahle’s rural constituents in the north, and Kiley’s suburban stronghold in the Sacramento area.
It was in the capital region where Kiley held significant leads, as expected. Sacramento County results, which were concentrated in the Folsom area, showed Kiley outpaced Dahle by more than 40 percentage points. El Dorado and Placer counties, which completed their reporting around 11 p.m., showed Kiley with roughly 10- and 20-point advantages, respectively, against Dahle.
But it was in the smaller North State counties – Alpine, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Plumas, Sierra, Siskiyou and, largest of these, Shasta – where Kiley faltered and Dahle garnered his strongest support. In Shasta County, for example, the largest bloc of votes outside of the capital region, Dahle surged to a 4-to-1 advantage over Kiley once reporting reached 100 percent.
“I’m looking forward to getting to work and advocating and getting to know my new constitutents better,” Dahle said.
The vote will be certified June 14, after counties have finished submitting remaining ballots.
Bitter race between GOP rivals
Dahle and Kiley had battled to fill the vacated seat left by former Sen. Ted Gaines, who won a seat on the state Board of Equalization in November and took office in January.
In the March special primary election, Dahle led all candidates with 29.6 percent of the vote, and Kiley won 27.9 percent.
The race to fill state Senate District 1 seat — a conservative stronghold with about 1 million people — had been mired in controversy, including mysterious voter-shaming mailers and questionable campaign tactics.
Dahle sent voters a misleading mailer depicting an edited photo of Kiley standing next to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, labeling him as a “former staffer” of hers. Kiley has never met Harris and worked as a deputy attorney general for the state in a civil service position.
Kiley successfully sued another Republic opponent prior to the special primary election in February, forcing Rex Hime to switch his ballot title from “taxpayer advocate” to “small business advocate.”
Also during the special primary election, a misleading mailer was sent to voters stating that a longtime Republican figure who had already dropped out of the race was the “clear” choice for Democrats. The mailer was paid for by “Taxfighters for Brian Dahle for State Senate 2019,” though Dahle said his campaign was not affiliated with the campaign committee.
And just days before the special election, letters sent by an anonymous group threatening to publicly expose voters who don’t cast ballots appeared in mailboxes within the greater Sacramento region.
A new special election
With Dahle’s win Tuesday, a new vacancy has opened up in the state Capitol.
Dahle currently represents California’s 1st Assembly district, which includes Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Plumas, Lassen, Modoc and Nevada counties and parts of Butte and Placer counties.
Dahle said he will resign his Assembly seat just before he is sworn into office, which he expects will happens within a couple weeks.
Once the Assembly seat is vacated, Gov. Gavin Newsom must call for a special election within 14 days. The special election would likely occur in November.