A Democratic candidate will face off against a Republican for the November runoff to win California Assembly District 1, the state’s northeastern corner generally considered a conservative stronghold.
Elizabeth Betancourt and Megan Dahle garnered the most votes in preliminary returns for Tuesday’s special election primary race and will compete for the seat in a race on Nov. 5.
As of 11:27 p.m., with 100 percent of precincts partially reporting, Betancourt led all candidates with 39.1 percent of the vote, followed by Dahle, who had 36.2 percent of the vote.
“We’re thinking it’s actually looking pretty good for being in the top two,” Betancourt said in a Facebook livestream video posted about 10:30 p.m.
Betancourt, the lone Democrat in the race, is a local farmer whose career has focused on resource management and water policy in rural areas. Dahle, who is running to fill the seat vacated by her husband, former Assemblyman Brian Dahle, is also a farmer, and previously served as president of the Big Valley Joint Unified School Board.
“We will gear up and be ready for November 5th,” Megan Dahle posted on Facebook around midnight. “Keep those signs up we are going to a runoff!”
Five candidates competed for the seat vacated by Brian Dahle, who won the District 1 state Senate seat in June. He had represented the district in the Assembly since 2012.
Among the remaining candidates, Patrick Henry Jones had 17.3 percent, Joe Turner had 5.6 percent and Lane Rickard had 1.8 percent of the vote.
Megan Dahle had raised the most money of any candidate during the primary race, with nearly $200,000 in campaign donations, including large contributions from real estate, health care, law enforcement and public safety unions, among other groups.
Jones raised about $65,000, Betancourt raised about $49,000 and Rickard raised about $10,000, according to Secretary of State records. Campaign finance forms were not available for Turner on the Secretary of State website.
Even as the state grows increasingly blue, the North state remains a moderately conservative bulwark in California.
It’s “rugged territory for any Democrat” hoping to win, and an uphill battle given Dahle’s high name recognition from her husband’s recent race, according to Steven Maviglio, Democratic political consultant in Sacramento.
“But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from races around the country, Democrats are energized,” he said in an email.
A Democrat has never won the Assembly seat since redistricting shifted the District 1 seat to the northeastern edge of the state in 2011; Brian Dahle won the seat the following year.
About 40 percent of the district’s registered voters are Republicans; about 28 percent are registered Democratic, and about 22 percent have listed no party preference.
County election offices are expected to finish counting votes for the special primary election by Sept. 5.