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How 5 Inland Empire elections were won — or lost — in June 2022 primary

Riverside Press-Enterprise logo Riverside Press-Enterprise 8/18/2022 Jeff Horseman, Nikie Johnson, Beau Yarbrough, The Press-Enterprise
Robert Pullem casts his ballot during early voting at the San Bernardino County Registrar’s office in San Bernardino on Monday, May 9, 2022. © Watchara Phomicinda/The Press-Enterprise/TNS Robert Pullem casts his ballot during early voting at the San Bernardino County Registrar’s office in San Bernardino on Monday, May 9, 2022.

As candidates look ahead to the Nov. 8 general election, it’s worth seeing how major Inland Empire races on the June 7 primary ballot played out.

For candidates who survived the primary, June’s results offer clues to winning in November. For those who lost, the certified results show why.

Here’s a look at where candidates in high-profile races got their votes in June and what it might tell us about the next election.

Riverside County sheriff

Well behind the incumbent in fundraising, retired sheriff’s Capt. Michael Lujan, who waited until the end of February to publicly launch his campaign, faced steep odds in his bid to defeat first-term Sheriff Chad Bianco, who easily won-election in June.

Lujan won Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Desert Hot Springs, Coachella and Cathedral City — cities that, with the exception of Cathedral City, have pluralities or majorities of Democratic voters who are less likely to back an outspoken Republican sheriff.

Bianco, however, won the county’s 23 other cities and its unincorporated communities. He received at least 70% of the vote in GOP-friendly cities of Canyon Lake, Norco, Murrieta, Wildomar and Calimesa and won close to 60% of voters in the large blue cities of Riverside and Moreno Valley.

There’s a strong correlation between voters who support the sheriff and oppose Gov. Gavin Newsom. That’s not surprising, given Bianco’s criticism of the Democratic governor and his coronavirus mandates.

41st Congressional District

The race for an open congressional seat in Riverside County is shaping up as an east vs. west battle.

Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, who is running in the new 41st Congressional District, did well in the district’s western end, winning a majority of the vote in Menifee and pluralities in Corona, Lake Elsinore and Eastvale. He also got 56% of the vote in the 41st’s unincorporated areas and 55% in Indian Wells, a red city in the Coachella Valley.

Will Rollins, who beat fellow Democrat Shrina Kurani for the right to take on Calvert in November, dominated in deep-blue Palm Springs on the 41st’s eastern end.

Rollins and Kurani combined got more votes than Calvert in Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, La Quinta and the portion of the 41st covering Riverside. In a bid to unify Democrats, Kurani endorsed Rollins after the primary.

While nonpartisan political forecasters still expect Calvert to win, recent primary results, including the overwhelming rejection in red Kansas of an anti-abortion-minded state constitutional amendment, hint that Democrats might be gaining momentum, a trend that could help Rollins in a district with a near-even split in voter registration.

Calvert got 72,700 votes in June, roughly 3,300 more than Rollins and Kurani combined. John Michael Lucio, the other Republican in the race, got just under 6,900 votes while progressive independent Anna Nevenic got almost 1,900.

Could those votes determine the winner in November?

San Bernardino County supervisor, District 2

After eight years in office, Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford couldn’t run again for supervisor due to term limits.

That opened the door for five candidates to battle it out for the seat in the primary. In the end, the two candidates who had previously won elections beat out a field of political newcomers.

Former Fontana City Council Member Jesse Armendarez and Cucamonga Valley Water District Board Member Luis Centina both found most of their support in and around the areas where they had previously won office — and where they’re at least somewhat-known quantities.

On June 7, Armendarez got 39.6% of the vote in Fontana, while Centina received 37.6% of votes in Rancho Cucamonga.

But the two were closely matched in the district overall. Cetina won 33.01% of the vote, followed by Armendarez with 30.51%. Trailing them were DeJonaé Shaw, with 21.2%; Eric Eugene Coker, with 8.05%; and Nadia Marie Renner, with 7.24%.

Cetina and Armendarez have small pockets in their territories that went to the other man, or Shaw. With the two candidates separated by 1,252 votes of 50,082 cast in the primary, victory may come down to who can pick up more of the remaining pockets of support within their strongholds.

Riverside County supervisor, District 5

Another east vs. west showdown could be brewing in the race for the Fifth District seat on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

Incumbent Jeff Hewitt, a former Calimesa mayor, won Calimesa, Banning, Hemet and the district’s unincorporated areas and squeaked out a win in San Jacinto. Moreno Valley Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez, who will face Hewitt in November, got close to 46% of the vote in Moreno Valley — the district’s largest city — while also receiving the most votes in Beaumont.

Gutierrez led the field of five primary candidates with more than 19,000 votes and finished ahead of Hewitt by 1,045 votes.

To win re-election, it looks like Hewitt will have to cut into Gutierrez’s Moreno Valley margin while running up vote totals in the San Gorgonio Pass. But the wild card is who wins over Beaumont Mayor Lloyd White’s voters.

White, who finished third, criticized Hewitt during the primary campaign. But while the office of supervisor is nonpartisan, supporters of White, a Republican, might be more inclined to back Hewitt, a Libertarian, than Gutierrez, a Democrat.

San Bernardino County supervisor, District 4

Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman didn’t take any chances coming into the primary election, in which he was seeking a third, four-year, term.

In addition to amassing a sizeable campaign chest — his reelection account had $348,121 on hand as of early May — he began lining up endorsements from political leaders, labor groups and law enforcement months before any opponents threw their hats into the ring.

A formidable foe eventually declared she was coming for his seat. State Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, announced she wouldn’t be seeking reelection after December’s redistricting put her and Sen. Susan Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, in the same district.

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Political newcomer Larry Wu joined the race as well. Wu is a Chino insurance salesman supported by the Red Brennan Group, which was behind 2020’s Measure K, which imposed a single-term limit for San Bernardino County supervisors and a lower salary cap, something supervisors and county continue to fight.

All three have strong ties to Chino and Chino Hills.

But Hagman’s preparations paid off, allowing him to take nearly every precinct in the district, except for pockets of Montclair, Ontario and Upland. Hagman got 66% of the vote in Chino, 61% in unincorporated areas and 59.9% of votes in Chino Hills. Even in the city where Leyva did best, Montclair, she still narrowly lost to Hagman, with 45.7% of the vote to 46% — a difference of 10 votes.

In the end, Hagman received 56.87% of the vote, winning the election and a third term outright. The fourth district race won’t appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

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