IMPERIAL VALLEY — With just 880 ballots left to be tallied before county election officials suspended the count due to social distancing, frontrunners John Brooks Hamby and Ryan Childers are mentally preparing themselves for the November runoff to claim the Imperial Irrigation District Division 2 seat now held by incumbent Director Bruce Kuhn.
In seeking a fifth term on the district board, Kuhn looked as though he might face Hamby in the runoff based on early returns in the March 3 primary race. But as mail-in and provisional ballots continued to roll in, Kuhn was overtaken by Childers for the second spot in the Nov. 3 runoff.
The Division 2 IID race was the only local election ever in question from the unofficial final tally from March 3.
Although county Registrar of Voters Debbie Porter said there were 880 ballots remaining as of March 23, Childers believes his “math” will hold up and he’ll face Hamby in the runoff. The top-two finishers in the four-man primary move to the November general election.
“I’m feeling confident. … Overall, the general trend has been in our favor,” Childers said during an interview March 24. “It’s not mathematically impossible, but it will be difficult to overcome our lead.”
Childers figures there are about 175 ballots left to be counted in the division, and as of March 23, Childers had opened a 38-vote lead over Kuhn.
The incumbent said last week he would not seek a recount no matter how close of a race.
Hamby was the clear frontrunner from the start, leading with more than 40 percent of the total votes cast in the division since the primary election.
As of March 23, Hamby had 2,126 votes, or 41.8 percent of the total votes cast in the division. Childers had 1,343 votes, or 26.41 percent, and Kuhn had 1,305, or 25.66 percent. Dilda McFaddin was in fourth place with 312 votes, or 6.13 percent.
Now, Hamby and Childers are turning their sights toward November.
“We are still humbled by the overwhelming support and are thrilled to build the momentum as we work toward earning the full support of the people this November and get to work in December,” Hamby stated in an email March 24.
“In a time of great uncertainty like the present, it allows us to focus on the things that really matter. Water is life in the Imperial Valley, and no matter the challenges of the past or present, it is vital to prepare for our future to keep our water in our Valley,” Hamby stated.
“It’s going to be important to reach out to the voters and supporters of the other candidates and consolidate that support behind me,” Childers said during an interview. “It’s important to elect an experienced person to do this important job on Day One.”
Kuhn said before that he and Childers shared similar concerns and themes and that they likely robbed votes from each other. Kuhn had said that if either he or Childers had run alone, it might have been a very different outcome.
March 23 was the final day of counting before elections department staff was sent home to due to social distancing in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, Porter said. “Extra help” would be brought in March 26 to resume the tally, which Porter added includes about 600-plus provisional ballots and about 250 mail-in ballots that need to be processed.
Porter predicted the count would be certified by April 2.
Meanwhile, in the IID Division 4 race, incumbent Erik Ortega had 1,837 votes and Javier Gonzalez remained in second with 1,134 votes as of March 23. The pair was also headed for a November runoff.
Likewise, little had changed in the election for the District 2 seat on the county Board of Supervisors, where incumbent Luis Plancarte won outright in the two-person contest.
Plancarte had 2,916 votes, while challenger Claudia Camarena had 2,348 votes as of March 23.
Overall, as of March 23, some 23,687 votes had been cast by Imperial County’s 77,390 eligible voters, for a total turnout so far of 30.61 percent.
The elections department will release another update March 26 on its website, https://www.co.imperial.ca.us/regvoters/ .
This story is featured in the Mar 26, 2020 e-Edition.