Garcia, Gascón maintain leads in key primary races  

Valencia resident Cory Balousek casts his vote at the Saugus Union School District polling place in Valencia on Saturday, 030224. Dan Watson/The Signal
Valencia resident Cory Balousek casts his vote at the Saugus Union School District polling place in Valencia on Saturday, 030224. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Incumbents holding after second day of counting; Barger, Valladares, Lackey out in front, Schiavo down 

A day after the polls closed, incumbents were still leading in most races in the primary election, though some are seeing their challengers approaching from the rear. 

According to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, 1,016,574 ballots have been counted as of 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, equating to 17.9% of registered voters, with 704,413 of those being mail-in ballots. Some local races, such as the 23rd and 27th Senate districts and the 34th Assembly District, cross over into other counties. The current vote totals for those races are from the California Secretary of State.   

Vote counting is expected to continue in the coming days, and the final election results for L.A. County are expected to be certified on March 29. The state is expected to certify the election on April 12.  

Here’s how the local races are shaking out thus far: 

27th Congressional District  

Nothing much has changed in the race to represent the Santa Clarita Valley in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, has maintained a vast lead over Democratic challenger George Whitesides, a former NASA chief of staff. Garcia has improved his position with 59.1% of the votes, compared to 29.5% for Whitesides. Democrat Steve Hill is trailing in a distant third at 11.4%. 

Should those results hold, Garcia and Whitesides would face off in the general election in November, though Whitesides has already declared himself one of the top two in a statement released late Tuesday night.  

“I decided to run for Congress because it became overwhelmingly clear to me that Congressman Mike Garcia isn’t serving us,” Whitesides said in the statement. “I’m proud to be running to represent the values and needs of our community in Congress, and am humbled by the level of support and enthusiasm we saw today. The trust of my neighbors is sacred, and I don’t take it for granted.  

“While folks in this district are concerned with rising costs, and threats to reproductive freedom, safety, and Social Security and Medicare, Congressman Garcia caters to the extreme interests of his party and votes against our interests at every turn,” Whitesides added. “This election will present voters with a sharp choice between a problem-solver, and an extremist who always puts his political party and himself first.”  

On Tuesday, Garcia’s campaign issued a statement that described Whitesides as an “extreme liberal,” and the congressman seemed encouraged by the initial results.  

“I am honored and humbled to once again receive the support of so many constituents. Tonight’s results are a testament to the fact that our mission and message is resonating with CA-27: Ensure the security of California families,” Garcia said in the statement sent through his campaign spokesman, Liam Anderson, shortly after the initial results were reported.  

“Yes, of course, there is much work that lies ahead,” Garcia continued. “From historic inflation to staggering debt, an open border to rising crime, we must correct course on many fronts. But I don’t believe the American people are intimidated by this task. I believe we’re a nation determined to seize the opportunity to get this country back on track, and I look forward to working with you to do just that.”  

L.A. County 5th District Supervisor  

A big lead in the initial returns on Tuesday has decreased slightly for county 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who has amassed 59.8% of the votes counted thus far, down nearly about half a point in the non-partisan race. 

Her top challenger, Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, has seen no significant change in his outlook, dropping to 20.7% in Wednesday’s update after coming in at 21.8% on Tuesday.  

The other three challengers — Konstantine Anthony, Perry Goldberg and Marlon Marroquin — are all sitting below 10%.  

Should Barger keep her substantial lead where it is, she would win the race with a simple majority, or 50% plus at least one vote. Should she drop below that simple majority, a run-off election between the top two vote-getters would occur in the general election.  

L.A. County District Attorney  

Facing a slew of challengers seeking to unseat the incumbent, L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón is keeping hold of the lead that he accrued after Tuesday’s initial returns.  

With 22.1% of the vote after Wednesday’s update, Gascón has seen the gap he had over challengers Nathan Hochman and Jonathan Hatami decrease slightly. Hochman, a former federal prosecutor, is sitting at 17.7% of the votes and Hatami, a deputy district attorney and Santa Clarita resident, is at 13.3%.  

In total, 11 challengers were on the ballot, though the other candidates are all eliciting less than 10% of the votes, respectively. Many of Gascón’s challengers have accused his special directives, announced Dec. 7, 2020, of being “pro-criminal.”  

On Wednesday, Hatami said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he is awaiting further updates as he sits in third place. 

“I want to say ‘thank you’ to each and every one of you,” Hatami wrote. “I’m so honored to be a part of this movement with you. We are family. My team and I will continue to watch the numbers as they update.”  

Hochman said in a statement on Tuesday that “the fight to take back Los Angeles County from criminals begins tonight and continues to Nov. 5 when I will have the honor of becoming L.A. County’s next district attorney,” alluding to his current second-place standing and confidence of being able to eventually unseat Gascón.  

If one candidate had been able to garner a simple majority of votes, or 50% plus one, that candidate would have been declared the winner. Considering where the vote totals stand now, it appears certain there will be a run-off in November pitting Gascón against Hochman. 

23rd Senate District  

In a race with no incumbent in the running, Republican Suzette Martinez Valladares, formerly the assemblywoman in the 40th district, has seen her lead over Democrat Kipp Mueller and Republican James “DJ” Hamburger grow bigger on Wednesday with 34.3% of the votes. 

Mueller, a small business owner and civil rights and labor attorney, has dropped to 26.3% of the votes after trailing by just half a percent on Tuesday. Hamburger is just one percentage point behind Mueller, at 25.2%.  

Valladares said on Tuesday that she is feeling confident of being at least one of the two candidates to move on to November’s general election, if not the top vote-getter.  

A representative for Mueller’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The 23rd Senate District encompasses the Santa Clarita Valley and the Antelope Valley, extending east to the Victor Valley. 

Sitting Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, is ineligible to run for the seat due to term limits.  

27th Senate District  

One race in which the incumbent looks to be losing ground is for the 27th Senate District seat. Sen. Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, had more than 50% of the votes counted on Tuesday, but has seen that number drop to 41.2% on Wednesday.  

In a close second is Republican challenger Lucie Volotzky at 41.1%. A businesswoman, Volotzky says on her campaign website that she is looking to be a “common-sense state senator who will put California first and stand strong to defeat the radical progressive agenda hijacking our state and country.”  

Stern is looking to win the seat for the third time, and should he do so in the November general election, he would be ineligible to run for the same seat again due to term limits. 

Democratic challenger Susan Collins is in a distant third at 17.7%.  

The 27th Senate District encompasses the southern portion of the Santa Clarita Valley as well as the western San Fernando Valley and eastern portions of Ventura County.  

The top two will move on to the general election.  

40th Assembly District  

In a race with only two candidates, both are guaranteed a spot in the general election. But the results of the primary could be a precursor to what occurs in November, and Republican challenger Patrick Lee Gipson has taken a sizeable lead over the incumbent, Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth.  

Gipson is leading with 54.3% of the votes as of Wednesday, a big leap from the 48.2% that he carried after the initial results came in on Tuesday. 

The 40th Assembly District encompasses most of the Santa Clarita Valley and northwestern portions of the San Fernando Valley. 

34th Assembly District  

Another race with only two candidates, the incumbent for this one, Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, is holding onto his substantial lead with 66.3% of the votes counted.  

Democratic challenger Ricardo Ortega has seen his percentage of votes drop by nearly 6% since Tuesday. 

The 34th Assembly District encompasses northeastern portions of the Santa Clarita Valley and the western Antelope Valley, extending north to Mojave and east from that point.  

The general election is set for Tuesday, Nov. 5. 

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