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Many candidates chase few votes in Assembly special election

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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There is no shortage of candidates to replace Ted Gaines as District 4 assemblyman in Tuesday’s special primary election. But it looks as if there will be a dearth of voters. In all, eight candidates are on the ballot – Republicans John Allard, Bogdan Ambrozewicz, Cheryl Bly-Chester, Beth Gaines, Rob Matthews, Michael O’Connor and Matt Williams, plus lone Democrat Dennis Campanale. Placer County elections chief Jim McCauley forecast on election eve Monday that about a third of all registered voters will cast ballots in Placer County – one of four counties that District 4 draws voters from. The county has about 171,000 registered voters in District 4, while there are approximately 294,000 registered districtwide. With many Placer County residents opting to vote by mail, McCauley’s office had received about 20 percent of all ballots by Monday afternoon – or about two-thirds of all votes expected to be cast by the time polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Ryan Ronco, assistant registrar of voters, said the forecast is for between 30 and 33 percent of voters to cast ballots in Placer County. The anticipated low voter number compares to the more-than-80 percent turnout during a typical presidential election. Placer County’s votes will be combined with those received from El Dorado, Sacramento and Alpine counties to determine whether one candidate will have won the election with a majority of the vote – or if a runoff election will take place May 3 with the two top vote-getters. The election is the first time out for new Prop. 14 rules approved in the June election that put all candidates on one primary ballot regardless of their party preferences. If there’s no winner in the primary, the two top candidates regardless of their party affiliation advance to the next round. Ronco said the Secretary of State’s Office has called for an expedited count to finalize election results. Without compromising the count, Placer County could have those results within 10 days, he said. Today's initial tally of vote-by-mail ballots could prove inconclusive. "We'll be receiving votes from Lincoln to Tahoe," Ronco said. "We're not allowed to remotely tabulate them so we'll have a better idea when the votes come in from the county's far-flung environs." From the March 8 primary, District 4 elections offices would have 56 days to prepare for the next round. Some of the initial priorities would be getting ballots to overseas military personnel and civilian voters abroad, he said. Candidate statements are allowed to be mailed no sooner than 40 days before an election, Ronco said. The special election results from a double-win by Gaines. He won a third and final two-year term as District 4 Assemblyman last November and then won a special election in January for the District 1 state Senate seat. The Senate win meant Gaines vacated the Assembly post after being sworn in as senator in January, leaving the District 4 seat up for election and open until a successor is elected. ---------------------------------------------------- Assembly District 4 is strongly GOP District 4 Total registered 293,705 Republican 131,899 (44.91 percent) Democratic 91,395 (31.12 percent) Decline to state 56,627 (19.28 percent) Placer County Total registered 171,028 Republican 81,331 Democratic 50,464 Decline to state 32,740 El Dorado County Total registered 82,037 Republican 35,203 Democratic 25,726 Decline to state 15,824 Sacramento County Total registered 39,907 Republican 15,120 Democratic 14,925 Decline to state 7,901 Alpine County Total registered 733 Republican 245 Democratic 280 Decline to state 162 Source: California Secretary of State