BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Now more than a week since the 2022 midterm primary election, we are still waiting for all ballots to be counted. As is expected with elections, thus far, the results have yielded both predictable outcomes and a few surprises.
That is especially true this year — the first election after statewide redistricting, which only happens once every ten years and leaves candidates facing brand-new territory. It left many not knowing what to expect from certain districts, including the packed and competitive 16th State Senate race.
Despite around a 12 percentage point Democratic registration edge in the district, and two well-known Central Valley Democrats in the race, as of Wednesday, the Republican political newcomer David Shepard is leading the crowded 16th Senate field.
“That’s indicative of the fact that the greater majority at this point would rather see a counter to what they have been given,” Shepard said.
The current tally has Shepard leading with 44.9 percent of the vote. The Democratic vote split between three blue candidates. Incumbent Melissa Hurtado with 30.3 percent, former Bakersfield Assemblymember Nicole Parra with 12.2 percent and Delano Mayor Bryan Osorio with 4.7 percent. Republican Gregory Tatum has 7.9 percent.
“That’s a very strong standing for Shepard, I think the Democratic party is going to be worried about that State Senate seat come fall,” Republican political analyst Cathy Abernathy said.
It may be surprising simply given the Democratic registration advantage, but as Democratic and Republican analysts Cathy Abernathy and Neel Sannappa point out, it’s not shocking when you take a closer look at the district and race.
“For the majority of the previous decade, that district has been represented by a Republican,” Democratic political analyst Neel Sannappa said.
Republican Andy Vidak held the State Senate seat until 2018, when Hurtado beat him out with over 55 percent of the vote in the General Election.
“Nobody really expected me to win and I did,” Hurtado said. “I worked really hard, I always do.”
But the primary for the district in 2018 was a different result. Vidak easily sliding to victory with Hurtado only garnering 23 percent of votes.
“We also had three Democrats in the race in 2018, so when you have more Democrats in a race and you have one Republican, that’s really what’s going to happen,” Sannappa said.
With three Democrats in the race this time too, and all major Republican heavyweights in the area — Congressman Kevin McCarthy, State Senator Shannon Grove and Assemblyman Vine Fong — throwing their support behind Shepard, Sannappa said that could be playing a role the primary results for the 16th Senate district this time around as well.
Redistricting causing the Democrat’s majority in the district to shrink from about 19 percent to 12 percent could also be a factor.
We are still waiting for all the ballots to be counted to see which two candidates in the race will face off in November’s General Election.