Government / Politics

San Benito County mirrors state trends in the 2022 election

Democratic candidates maintain an edge over Republican opponents.

The 2022 general election was marked by San Benito County’s lowest turnout in the last four general elections. The county saw an increase of 7,573 registered voters in the last four years. But in 2018, 79.88% of eligible voters went to the polls compared to only 52.58% in 2022.

As with the June 2022 primary election, the county’s results from Nov. 8 proved to be good indicators of the final statewide results, which continued to trend toward Democratic candidates. However, Republican candidates fare better in San Benito County, running between four and six points higher than in the state as a whole. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom won the state by 59% and gathered only 53% of the county vote, a difference of six points. Senator Alex Padilla received 56.83% of the local vote versus 61.2% of the statewide vote.

Overall, the urban vote in California was heavily Democratic and the rural vote leaned heavily Republican. Newsom received only 23.8% of the vote in Modoc County, the third least populous county in California with 8,861 people and just one incorporated city. San Francisco County, with 93 times the population of Modoc County, gave Newsom 86.4% of its vote. 

For the most part, this pattern typifies how the state voted last month. But there were some significant outliers. One was the contest between incumbent Zoe Lofgren and challenger Peter Hernandez for the 18th District U.S. House seat, which represents all of San Benito County and parts of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Hernandez, currently a San Benito County supervisor, got 45.21% of the county vote, but in Santa Clara County he got 30.72%; in Monterey County he got 37.6%; and in Santa Cruz County he got 27.86%.

Higher Republican results in the county than the state are clearest in the partisan races rather than the ballot measures where party affiliation is less of a driving factor. While the results of winning and losing candidate races differed from four to six points, the spread in propositions was just a point or two, as is the case of Proposition 1: Constitutional Right to Reproductive Freedom, which was supported by 64.71% of San Benito County voters versus 66.9% of statewide voters.

The greatest difference was seen in the failed Proposition 27, which concerned online sports wagering outside of tribal lands. There was an almost four-point spread in the “No” votes, with San Benito County opposing the measure by 78.59% compared with the statewide result of 82.3%.

The very first results released by the office of the San Benito County Registrar of Voters at 8 p.m. on Election Day proved in almost every race to have been predictive of the final results. These results were primarily votes from the four polling locations in the county and represented only 7,196 ballots or 36.3% of the final total of 19,845 ballots received.

There were a few exceptions, however. The first results for County Supervisor for District 1 had Betsy Dirks leading against Dom Zanger by one vote (790-789) with only 1,686 votes counted. The final results, released on Nov. 23, added an additional 2,374 ballots to the count, leaving Zanger as the winner with 51.72% of the vote, a difference of 158 votes.

In the same way, in the election of three new members to the San Juan Bautista City Council, only 12 votes separated the five candidates in the first election update, with 336 ballots counted out of an eventual 839 and Jackie Morris-Lopez, Steve Harris and Edwin J Sabathia initially leading the race. Incumbent Mayor Leslie Jordan and Jose Aranda were in fourth and fifth places. 

In the final results, Harris dropped to last place and Jordan took third behind Morris-Lopez and Sabathia, retaining her seat on the council.

Below are statistics on key statewide and district races as well as those for the statewide propositions. All figures are accurate as of Nov. 30.

 

Governor

Gavin Newsom (D). incumbent
SBC – 53.26% (10,428 votes)
CA – 59.3% (6,356,966 votes)

Brian Dahle (R)
SBC – 46.74% (9,150 votes)
CA – 40.7% (4,363,880 votes) 

Newsom first ran for governor in 2018, opposed by John Cox, and won by a higher percentage than in 2022—56.12% of the county and 61.9% of the state vote totals. Newsom also survived his 2021 recall, winning 57.82% of the county and 61.9% of the state votes.

 

Lieutenant Governor

Eleni Kounalakis (D), incumbent

  • SBC –  55.02% (10,644)
  • CA – 59.8% (6,303,820)

Angela E. Underwood Jacobs (R)

  • SBC –  44.98% (8,702)
  • CA – 40.2% (4,238,118)

Kounalakis first ran in 2018 to replace Gavin Newsom, who was running for governor. Her opponent was Ed Hernandez, and she won the county that year by a slightly higher percentage: 57.73%.

 

Secretary of State

Shirley N. Weber (D), incumbent

  • SBC – 55.26% (10,683)
  • CA – 60.1% (6,347,186)

Rob Bernosky (R)

  • SBC – 44.74% (8,648)
  • CA – 39.9% (4,205,671)

Weber was nominated by Newsom to fill the secretary of state seat vacated by Alex Padilla in 2021, when Padilla was appointed U.S. senator following Kamala Harris’s election to the vice presidency. Bernosky is a San Benito County resident. 

 

Attorney General

Rob Bonta (D), incumbent

  • SBC – 55.50% (10,701%)
  • CA – 59.2% (6,227,671)

Nathan Hochman (R)

  • SBC – 44.50% (8,581)
  • CA – 40.8% (4,295,348)

Bonta was appointed attorney general in 2021 after Xavier Becerra resigned from the position to become Secretary of Health and Human Services.

 

Superintendent of Public Instruction (non-partisan)

Tony K. Thurmond, incumbent

  • SBC – 57.85% (9,526)
  • CA – 63.7% (5,573,747)

Lance Ray Christensen

  • SBC – 42.15% (6,941)
  • CA – 36.3% (3,175,826)

Thurmond was elected in 2018 in a very tight statewide election against Marshall Tuck, edging Tuck out by less than two points: 50.96% to 49.1%. He got no help from San Benito County, which voted 53.05% to 46.95% in Tuck’s favor, a rare instance of the county failing to be on the winning side of a race. Thurmond got the highest number of undervotes in the county results, with 4,147 voters not voting in this race.

 

U.S. Senate (Partial/Unexpired Term)

Alex Padilla (D), incumbent

  • SBC – 56.56% (10,901)
  • CA – 61.0% (6,442,784)

Mark P. Meuser (R)

  • SBC – 43.44% (8,373)
  • CA – 39.0% (4,121,038)

 

U.S. Senate (Full Term) Alex Padilla (D), incumbent

  • SBC – 56.83% (11,016)
  • CA – 61.2% (6,504,090)

Mark P. Meuser (R)

  • SBC – 43.17% (8,368)
  • CA – 38.8% (4,130,570)

After being appointed senator in 2021 to replace Kamala Harris, in this election, Padilla had to run for the senatorial seat twice: once to serve the remainder of what would have been Harris’s term and once for the term starting in 2023. Padilla previously ran for California Secretary of State in 2018, defeating Meuser in that election as well and winning the San Benito County vote by 60.52% to 39.48% and the state by 64.5% to 35.5%.

 

State Supreme Court

Patricia Guerrero, presiding justice incumbent since 2022  

  • SBC – Yes, 68.81% (11,340); No, 31.19% (5,141)
  • CA – Yes, 71.0% (6,080,045); No, 29.0% (2,480,785) 

Martin J. Jenkins, associate justice incumbent since 2020    

  • SBC – Yes, 66.48% (10,697); No, 33.52% (5,393)
  • CA – Yes, 69.4% (5,720,794); No, 30.6% (2,517,873) 

Goodwin Liu, associate justice incumbent since 2011

  • SBC – Yes, 66.09% (10,726); No, 33.91% (5,504)
  • CA – Yes, 69.3%  (5,800,816); No 30.7%, (2,564,809)

Joshua P. Groban, associate justice incumbent since 2019   

  • SBC – Yes, 64.99%, (10,421); No, 35.01%, (5,613)
  • CA – Yes,  68.1%, (5,563,683); No, 31.9%, (2,600,646)

The undervote in this election is most noticeable in the race for the various justices, which are non-partisan offices and require a straight up-or-down vote. An average of 3,631 voters in this election—18.3%—did not express a preference for individual judges. This could be explained by the lack of information available to voters on the office seekers—Canon 5 of the California Code of Judicial Ethics limits the ability of judicial candidates to engage in political activity to maintain their appearance of impartiality. 

 

House District 18

Zoe Lofgren (D) incumbent

  • SBC – 54.77% (10,613)
  • CA – 65.8% (99,633)

Peter Hernandez (R)

  • SBC – 45.23% (8,763)
  • CA – 34.2% (51,684)

Before the district maps were redrawn in 2022, San Benito County was part of House District 20 and represented by Jimmy Panetta (D). Lofgren represented House District 19 and, in 2020, defeated Justin James Aguilera 71.7% to 28.3%. The same year, Panetta defeated Jeff Gorman 66.56% to 33.44% in the county and 76.8% to 23.2% in the state results.

 

State Assembly District 29

Robert Rivas (D) incumbent

  • SBC – 58.21% (11,172)
  • CA – 63.8% (63,382)

Stephanie Castro (R)

  • SBC – 41.79% (8,020)
  • CA – 36.2% (36,006)

Before the district maps were redrawn in 2022, San Benito County was part of Assembly District 30, though still represented by Rivas. In the 2020 election, Rivas faced Gregory Swett and defeated him 63.54% to 36.46% in the county and 69.6% to 30.4% in the state results.

 

Proposition 1: Constitutional Right to Reproductive Freedom (passed)

  • SBC – Yes, 64.71% (12,486 ); No, 35.29% (6,809)
  • CA – Yes, 66.9% (7,044,453); No, 33.1% (3,482,868) 

 

Proposition 26: Sports Wagering on Tribal Lands (failed)

  • SBC – Yes, 33.63% (6,417); No, 66.37% (12,667)
  • CA – Yes, 33.0% (3,441,254); No, 67.0% (6,998,570) 

 

Proposition 27: Online Sports Wagering Outside of Tribal Lands (failed)

  • SBC – Yes, 21.41% (4,108); No, 78.59% (15,083)
  • CA – Yes, 17.7% (1,863,501); No, 82.3% (8,686,054) 

 

Proposition 28: Public School Arts and Music Education Funding (passed)

  • SBC – Yes, 63.28% (12,185); No, 36.72% (7,071)
  • CA – Yes, 64.4% (6,789,972); No, 35.6% (3,756,548) 

 

Proposition 29: Regulates Kidney Dialysis Clinics (failed)

  • SBC – Yes, 32.89% (6,300); No, 67.11% (12,852)
  • CA – Yes, 31.6% (3,299,084); No, 68.4% (7,143,448)

 

Proposition 30: Tax to Fund ZEV/Wildfire Programs (failed)

  • SBC – Yes, 44.16% (8,509); No, 55.84% (10,760) 
  • CA – Yes, 42.3% (4,467,215); No, 57.7% (6,090,970)

 

Proposition 31: Prohibition on Sale of Certain Tobacco Products (passed)

  • SBC – Yes, 61.88% (11,880); No, 38.12% (7,318)
  • CA – Yes, 63.5% (6,681,533); No, 36.5% (3,840,135)

 

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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink first approached me as a photographer. They were the ones to encourage me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.