After an intense campaign, two Republicans, Frank Bigelow and Thomas "Rico" Oller were the leading vote getters in the State 5th District Assembly race in Tuesday's primary election, with Oller edging Bigelow by 4.5% of the vote.The two will advance to the Nov. 6 general election.
Oller received 28,533 votes (33.4%) and Bigelow had 24,660 votes (28.9%).
Totals for the other four candidates in the race were Tim Fitzgerald (R - 15,365 - 18%), Marc Boyd (D - 11,497 - 13.5%), Independent Mark Beldon (3,483 - 4.1%) and Kevin Lancaster (R - 1,819 - 2.1%).
Boyd was the endorsed candidate of the Democratic Party.
This was the first election in California that allowed the public to vote for any statewide candidate regardless of what party preference was indicated on their voter registration. In the new system, the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election in November.
Bigelow raised about $600,000 for the race and Oller raised about $300,000.
Isaac Kight, campaign manager for Oller, said their campaign has a huge volunteer base that has a lot of energy and excitement heading into the Nov. 6 general election.
Kight said Bigelow spent a huge amount of money on radio and mailings and without the funds from the Mother Lode Tax Payers Association, Bigelow "would not be in the race," referring to a total of $225,000 from realtors and the California Dental Association.
In a prepared press release, Oller, 53, expressed confidence that he will prevail in the fall.
"My campaign, which stressed keeping taxes down on working people, reducing the regulatory burden on small businesses and opposing wasteful spending projects like the $68 billion high speed rail boondoggle clearly resonated with voters."
As expected, long time O'Neals resident Bigelow, 57, made a strong showing in Madera County receiving 7,490 votes (49%), followed by Oller with 2,895 (18.9%). County voters gave Fitzgerald 1,956 votes (12.8%), Boyd 1,887 (12.3%), Beldon 720 (4.7%) and Lancaster 329 (2.2%).
Bigelow, campaign manager Kirk Kimmelshue and supporters gathered at the Vineyard Restaurant in Madera Tuesday night to watch the election results.
"We are extremely happy with the results and we are now looking forward to the November general election," said Kimmelshue. "Frank has had tremendous support throughout this campaign and we are very confident he will continue to receive strong support. We are on track with our campaign plan and we are looking for a victory in November."
The 5th District includes the foothill and mountain areas of nine counties from Calaveras (Placerville) in the north to Madera in the south.
Republicans have 43% of registered voters in the district while the Democrats have 32%.
Bigelow is a four-term Madera County Republican supervisor representing District 2. His family has lived in Madera County and owned Ponderosa Telephone Company and cattle ranch Bigelow Farms for more than 100 years.
He worked his way up the ranks of Ponderosa Telephone to vice president and remains active with his family's cattle ranch.
Bigelow is also a past-president of the California State Association of Counties, representing 58 counties. His wife Barbara sits on the Chawanakee Unified School District board of trustees.
Bigelow had the endorsements from Congressmen Jeff Denham and Devin Nunes, former Congressman George Radanovich, former California Secretary of State Bill Jones, Senator Tom Berryhill and Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen. In addition, the California Farm Bureau, California Professional Firefighters and Crime Victims United of California have endorsed Bigelow.
Oller is from San Andreas in Calaveras County.
In 2000, he won election to the California State Senate representing its 1st District (Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento and Sierra counties). From 1996 until his election to the Senate, Oller represented the 4th Assembly District.
He established Material Ventures, Inc. in 1981 and is currently chairman of the board of his company, employing about 40 people in San Andreas, Jamestown, Merced and Placerville.
Oller received endorsements from Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, National Rifle Association, California ProLife Council, Congressman Tom McClintock, California Taxpayer Protection committee and a number of county supervisors in Amador, El Dorado, Calaveras, Mono and Tuolumne counties.
Incumbent Judge Soldani stays on bench
Incumbent Superior Court Judge Joseph A. Soldani received 8,827 votes (61.4%) while his opponent, Madera attorney and former Madera police officer Brian Austin, received 5,488 votes (38.2%).
"I'm pleased with the victory and thankful to all of those who supported me and helped me in the campaign," Soldani said. "My wife Elaine and I really enjoyed meeting so many wonderful people throughout Madera County that supported us during this campaign."
Soldani, 63, had a strong contingent of endorsements within the county including other Superior Court judges, law enforcement agencies and government officials.
Soldani has been on the bench since January, 2010, after being appointed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to fill the position left after the death of Judge Edward Moffit. Prior to his appointment he served as a Madera County deputy district attorney, Madera County assistant district attorney, Fresno deputy district attorney and city attorney for Madera.
Soldani was supported by Madera County District Attorney Michael Keitz, Sheriff John Anderson and former Sheriff Ed Bates, Madera Police Chief Michael Kime, county deputy association, county prosecutors association and the Madera and Chowchilla police officers associations as well as members of the City of Madera and Chowchilla city councils, members of the county board of supervisors and Madera County Tax Collector Tracy Kennedy Desmond.
Austin, 52, served as a Marine and is a former San Diego County sheriff deputy and a former officer with the Madera Police Department. He has been practicing law in Madera for 16 years.
4th congressional district seat
Incumbent Republican Tom McClintock, 55, of Rocklin won the District 4 U.S. Congressional race with 88,319 votes (64.1%) over retired business executive Jack Uppal, 57, of Lincoln, who received 49,471 votes (35.9%).
McClintock decided to seek reelection, saying it was his mission to curtail government bureaucracy. Uppal said he ran for office because he was frustrated with Congressional partisan squabbles.
Svanda elected to board of supervisors
Former Madera city councilman Gary Svanda was elected Tuesday to represent District 3 on the Madera County Board of Supervisors. Svanda will replace Ronn Dominici, who retired from the board after serving for 12 years.
Svanda received 1,157 votes (38.6%) with self-employed businessman Rick Farineli receiving 854 votes (28.5%). Two other candidates in the race, administrative assistant Isabel Barreras and physician/arbritator/teacher Loraine Goodwin, received 713 votes (23.8%) and 263 votes (8.8%) respectively.
Incumbent District 4 Supervisor Max Rodriguez ran unopposed.
Madera County's Clerk-Recorder Rebecca Martinez reported county voter turn-out was 31.5% of the county's 52,826 registered voters with 9.8% of votes being cast at 33 polling locations and 21.6% by mail.