(Update 7:20 a.m. Nov. 4: Now includes a statement from JB Hamby.)
In what appears to be a decisive victory and a sound drubbing, first-time political candidate JB Hamby is all but a lock for the Division 2 seat on the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors, according to early returns from the Nov. 3 election.
This was a run-off election between the 23-year-old Hamby and longtime El Centro school board member Ryan D. Childers, both of whom beat out incumbent IID Director Bruce Kuhn in the March primary.
With all 46 of the El Centro-area precincts reporting, and early mail-in ballots counted through Nov. 3, Hamby received 2,453 votes, or 63.83 percent of the votes cast, to Childers’ 1,390 votes, or 36.17 percent.
“Last night, we made history. We achieved the biggest landslide in an Imperial Irrigation District election (64 percent of the vote) in a generation, possibly much longer. We also became the youngest candidate to ever win a seat on the IID board in its 109-year history. You made the choice to shape history in the Imperial Valley, across the Colorado River, the American West and Mexico,” Hamby wrote in a statement he sent to the media Wednesday morning, Nov. 4.
“At this point, I have been up for over 24 hours but cannot sleep until I take the time to thank the people of El Centro, Heber, and Seeley for placing your trust in me to be your IID director,” Hamby continued.
“We started with a simple statement, that water is life in Imperial Valley. That without it, we have nothing. To protect our Valley’s future, we knew we had to keep our water here with a public vote, by stopping the San Diego Pipeline, and establishing leadership across the Colorado River Basin,” he stated in part. “At a time when families are hurting due to the worst effects of COVID-19 amplifying already bleak economic conditions in our community, we pledged to commit to efficiency and oppose raising power bills over the next four years.”
Imperial County officials said there are still an untold number of mail-in and provisional ballots from across the county left to be tallied, but Hamby’s lead is likely to stand.
Throughout both the primary and up through the run-off election, the Division 2 race was closely watched and much talked about due to the strong opinions of the candidates over water rights in the Valley. Childers split the vote with Kuhn in March due to their similar positions on water, with both holding firm that the district holds those rights in trust for the users in the Valley. Hamby was in tune with many farmers in the region who believe the water rights are tied to the land, or should be.
Meanwhile, the run-off race for the Calexico-area Division 4 seat isn’t quite as clear, with incumbent Director Erik Ortega fighting it out with challenger Javier Gonzalez, who is leading by the slightest of margins.