Victory Within Reach for Esmeralda Soria in 27th Assembly District Race Against Mark Pazin

Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria continues to hold a slim, but increasingly safe-looking, lead over Mark Pazin in their contentious contest to represent the 27th Assembly District in the California Legislature. The latest results also bring clarity to many Fresno County races, but a seat in Congress remains too close to call. After updated election returns Friday afternoon from Fresno and Madera counties, Democrat Soria has 44,784 votes, or 51.2%, while Republican Mark Pazin, the former sheriff of Merced County, has 42,734, or 48.8%. The margin of about 2,050 votes is only a slight change from midweek totals. The 27th District includes portions of Fresno, Merced and Madera counties. Across all three counties, regardless of district, there remain a total of about 3,300 ballots left for election officials to process and count. For Pazin to make up the difference on Soria, not only would the lion’s share of those unprocessed ballots need to come from voters in the 27th District, but Pazin would have to garner the vast majority of them.

One North Valley race that remains very much in doubt is in the 13th Congressional District. That hotly-contested election pitted longtime state Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, against Republican businessman and farmer John Duarte of Hughson. Since Election Night on Nov. 8, the lead has see-sawed back and forth between the two men, and at no time has the margin even reached one percentage point.

That didn’t change after Friday’s updates from Fresno and Madera counties, which make up part of the district along with Merced County and portions of San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. Duarte now has 63,539 votes, or 50.3% of votes counted to date, compared to 62,674 for Gray – a margin of 865 votes or six-tenths of a percentage point. The California Secretary of State’s office reported Friday that Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties still have more than 60,000 ballots yet to process and count. But it is unclear how many of those ballots are from voters in the 13th District. The 13th remains closely watched nationwide because a Duarte victory would add to the narrow margin that the Republican Party has now secured in the U.S. House of Representatives, while a win for Gray would strengthen the Democrats’ position as the minority party. In addition to the multi-county races for the Assembly and House of Representatives, the newest update from Fresno County helped to solidify the results in a slew of local contests from the Nov. 8 midterm general election.

FRESNO UNIFIED In one of the most closely-watched Fresno Unified School District board races, incumbent Veva Islas widened her lead over challenger Karen Steed, a retired FUSD teacher, for the district’s McLane High School area seat. The margin between the two candidates, which was as narrow as 25 votes election night, has grown to 325 votes. That gives Islas almost 45% of the vote, to Steed’s 39.7%. Chemist Michelle Scire, a second challenger, trails with 15.2%. There have been talks of a possible recount in this race, according to Islas, although Steed neither confirmed nor denied her intentions to request one in an interview Tuesday. As for the other three Fresno Unified seats that were up for election, two incumbents and one challenger have maintained commanding leads with every updated tally since election night. In the Bullard High School area, challenger Susan Wittrup, a retired FUSD school psychologist, leads incumbent Terry Slatic, a retired United States Marine Corps major, by almost 6,000 votes. She’s taken 58% of the vote to Slatic’s 26%. FUSD teacher James Barr and retired FUSD campus safety assistant Michael Haynes are in third and fourth with 11.7% and 4.3% of the vote, respectively. Incumbents in the two remaining races ran out to early leads election night and have held onto them ever since. Keshia Thomas, the incumbent in the district’s Edison High area, maintains a commanding lead of over 2,000 votes over her sole challenger Wayne Horton. Thomas has 76% to Horton’s 23.8%. Valerie F. Davis, the incumbent in Fresno Unified’s Sunnyside High area, is in first place in a pool of four by a little under 2,000 votes. She leads with 47.4% to alternative educator Karl C. Diaz’s second place with about 23.3% of the vote. Educator Tammy McMahon-Gorans follows with 20.7% of the vote, and marketer Michael Osmer is in last place with 8.5%. CLOVIS UNIFIED Little has changed in Clovis Unified’s two races on the ballot as well. Nonprofit executive and former Fresno City Councilmember Clint Olivier still leads in the competition for the district’s Area 1 seat by over 4,000 votes. He carried 39.3% to communications consultant Samantha Bauer’s 32.4%. Businessman Chuck Der Manouel and Realtor Joanne Burton lag behind with about 23.5% and 4.6% of the vote, respectively. In the race for the Area 6 seat, parent and teacher Deena Combs-Flores handily leads by over 14,000 votes. She’s taken 62% to retired business owner Bill Whitmore’s 37.9%.

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