Surprises shake up congressional races in the Inland Empire
One of the biggest upsets in Tuesday’s “top two” primary came in a San Bernardino County congressional race where the top Democratic candidate, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, appears to have failed to collect enough votes to make it to the November runoff election, according to the preliminary ballot count.
The top two finishers were Republicans -- Rep. Gary Miller of Diamond Bar and state Sen. Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga. What makes it so surprising is that Democrats have a five-percentage-point edge in registered voters in the district, which spans from Redlands to Upland.
Democratic leaders in Washington were hoping to pick up the seat, one of a handful in California they consider critical to the party’s effort to recapture control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The race in the 31st Congressional District was tight: Miller nabbed 26.7% of the vote, compared to 24.9% for Dutton and 22.8% for Aguilar.
The remaining votes went to a trio of other Democrats on the ballot: Justin Kim, Rita-Ramirez-Dean and Renea Wickman. Combined, they received a quarter of the votes, siphoning support away from Aguilar, who was backed by the Democratic Party.
The Redlands mayor missed making it to November by slightly more 1,000 votes, according to the state’s preliminary election results. Some votes still need to be counted, however, including provisional and late-arriving mail-in ballots.
That congressional race was among the top targets of "super PACs" and other independent expenditure committees, which spent more than $1 million. The vast majority came from the National Realtors Assn., which backed Miller.
In the other district Lewis eyed -- the 8th Congressional District, which includes the San Bernardino County mountains, deserts and Inyo and Mono counties -- Republican Assemblyman Paul Cook of Yucca Valley captured the most voted in the crowded field of 13 contenders.
He strong showing wasn’t a shocker, unlike the candidate currently in second place -- Lake Arrowhead home-builder and anti-illegal immigrant activist Gregg Imus, also a Republican.
As of Wednesday morning, Imus had a 190-vote edge over third-place finisher Jackie Conaway, a Democrat from Barstow. He was 209 votes ahead of fourth-place finisher Phil Liberatore, a Republican tax consultant based in Whittier who poured at least $400,000 of his own money into his campaign.
-- Phil Willon in Los Angeles
Photo: Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar. Credit: City of Redlands