Nielsen falls below 50% – new vote Jan. 8
North State taxpayers will have to pay about $1 million to replace state Sen. Doug LaMalfa in the predominantly Republican 4th District, which includes all or part of 12 counties, including Colusa, Glenn and Tehama.
Republican Jim Nielsen's one-time 50 percent plus lead after the Nov. 6 consolidated primary fell below the threshold, setting the stage for the Jan. 8 runoff with Democrat Michael "Mickey" Harrington of Magalia.
Nielsen, who was and probably still is expected to be the shoo-in as LaMalfa's replacement, finished with 49.8 percent of the vote, according to final figures released by the Secretary of State's Office.
Harrington ran a distant second with 27.7 percent of the nearly 380,000 votes cast.
"We learned last week that in spite of our strenuous efforts to win a 50-percent-plus-one-vote majority in the state Senate special election primary, we fell just short of that goal by a scant 1,662 votes," Nielsen said Wednesday in a statement. "While we finished with nearly double the number of votes of the second-place candidate, this outcome is indeed bittersweet."
The shortfall could be contributed to another Republican, Assemblyman Dan Logue, who originally sought the Senate seat then pulled out late because of health reasons.
Despite the party's efforts to push all votes toward Nielsen, Logue still garnered 11.5 percent of the votes.
Logue was elected to the newly drawn District 3 Assembly seat, appearing on the Nov. 6 ballot for both positions.
The special election will hit small counties particularly hard, as it is a cost that is not reimbursed by the state, officials said.
Time and limited personnel are also an issue.
"Right now, our staff is equally divided between finishing up with the general election and preparing for the special election," said Jennifer Vise, Tehama County Elections Department assistant registrar.
In addition to running essentially back-to-back elections, Tehama County expects to shell out about $100,000 in election costs for Jan. 8.
Colusa County Clerk-Recorder Kathleen Moran estimates that it will cost the county between $35,000 and $40,000.
Glenn County Deputy Clerk Susie Alves predicts the county will spend about $40,000, while Butte and Shasta estimate their costs to be about $400,000 each, officials said Thursday.
"We're not too happy about (the cost), but this election is something we are required to do," Moran said.
Gov. Jerry Brown called the special election in October after LaMalfa, R-Richvale, resigned from the Senate in August to pursue a seat in Congress.
At the time, LaMalfa said he hoped his resigning from the Legislature early would spare taxpayers the cost of one, if not both special elections, since the special primary election could be consolidated with the Nov. 6 presidential election.
Since Nielsen was considered by most to be the heir-apparent in the predominately Republican district, many officials assumed the Jan. 8 election would be averted.
But when six people filed to fill LaMalfa's seat, including Logue, it became clear that winning the 50-percent-plus-one-vote majority would be a difficult task.
Chico Unified board President Jann Reed and Dan Levine, a Butte County rancher, also ran. Ben Emery withdrew shortly after entering the race, but his name appeared on the ballot as well.
The runoff between Nielsen and Harrington leaves very little time for county officials to prepare for a full-out election.
"We started gearing up in July for the November election. That was five months," Alves said. "Now we have six weeks."
The time frame also includes three county holidays, including Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year's Day.
By law, the Jan. 8 general election must be conducted in the same manner as the primary, which excludes a mail-only election, officials said, although some counties hope to cut costs by consolidating voting precincts.
Colusa County will drop from 14 precincts to eight, with consolidation occurring mostly in the cities of Williams and Colusa, Moran said.
Tehama County will consolidate the three Corning precincts into two, Vise said, but its outskirts precincts, including Vina and Los Molinos will remain the same.
Glenn County's will mostly remain the same, except the four polling places at the Glenn County Fairgrounds will consolidate into two, Alves said.
The counties are also reducing the number of poll workers.
"We usually have four poll workers at each precinct, but we will only have three," Alves said.
The most important thing, election officials said, is that voters know that the Jan. 8 election is a necessary step in seating a senator in the 4th District.
"We hope that people vote," Alves said. "In the last special election, we only had a 17 percent turnout."
Voters who have recently moved are encouraged to re-register online at the Secretary of State's website.
The last day to register for the Jan. 8 election is Dec. 24.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.