A primary election will be held Tuesday to decide who will represent residents of a large swath of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Polls open at 7 a.m. for the special election in the 23rd Senate District, in which five candidates are vying for the seat vacated last November following the resignation of Sen. Bill Emmerson.
As of Monday, a total of 53,196 mail-in ballots had been returned, out of 223,123 distributed in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, according to registrars of voters' offices in both locations.
Election officials recommended that anyone still in possession of an absentee ballot and intending to vote should drop their ballot at registrar's headquarters in Riverside or San Bernardino, or at their nearest polling station Tuesday.
The special election was called by the governor in December after Emmerson announced he was leaving office. The three-term assemblyman and one- term senator released a statement saying his "level of commitment" had waned, and he felt constituents deserved better representation.
The 23rd Senate District runs from Hemet north to Big Bear, east to Cabazon and west to Rancho Cucamonga.
Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, and San Jacinto Mayor Crystal Ruiz, also a Republican, and Calimesa City Councilman Jeff Hewitt, a Libertarian, make up the slate of elected officials on the ballot. The other contenders are Democrats Ameenah Fuller and Ronald O'Donnell.
In campaign literature, Morrell touts his legislative experience and two decades as a business owner. He said if elected to the senate, he would push for a balanced state budget, a reduction in the state bureaucracy and higher academic standards.
Ruiz said if elected, her top priorities would be public safety and jobs.
Hewitt said his lifelong Inland Empire residency gave him a "deep appreciation" for the needs of the district. The swimming pool contractor said his nearly four years on the Calimesa City Council and the San Gorgonio Pass Water Task Force had enlightened him on ways to address the region's and state's most pressing issues.
According to Fuller's campaign website, the Rancho Cucamonga resident has worked as a healthcare policy consultant and senate legislative analyst. She believes "affordable green homes and businesses (are) the way of the future," and the state's tax laws should reflect that.
O'Donnell, an attorney, said if elected he would work to put the kibosh on "foreclosure mills" by introducing "Jail the Banksters" legislation. He said illegal repossession of properties is rampant, especially in the IE.
The candidate said he also favors another hike in the minimum wage and would support a quasi-amnesty program for illegal immigrants.
If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote tomorrow, the two contenders with the largest number of votes will square off in the June 3 election.
—City News Service.