Election Upheaval: Michigan Primary Signals Intense Battle Ahead in Assembly District 36

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Election Upheaval: Michigan Primary Signals Intense Battle Ahead in Assembly District 36

In the bustling arena filled with contenders vying to fill the seat left vacant by long-time Democratic Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, initial returns indicate Republican Jeff Gonzalez leading the pack in this race. While several Democratic candidates still compete fiercely to surge ahead in the upcoming general election, Gonzalez holds a significant lead with 10,703 votes, representing 34.5% of the over 30,000 votes cast in Assembly District 36, encompassing the Eastern Coachella Valley.

As more votes trickle in, many Democratic contenders jostle for the next spot in the mix: Jos “Joy” Acuna Jr. trails in second place with 5,550 votes or 17.9%, while Edgard Garcia lags considerably behind with 4,826 votes or 15.6%.

Democratic candidates command nearly 55% of the votes, with Republicans trailing at 45%.

From Coachella, Democrat Garcia, first elected to the California Legislature in 2014, confirmed last year that he would not seek re-election, further intensifying the fray. Citing a desire to spend more time with his children after years of traveling, his announcement came just days before the deadline for incumbent officials to file for re-election.

Since the latest round of California redistricting, Garcia has represented Assembly District 36, which includes Coachella, Indio, other parts of the Eastern Coachella Valley, and extends eastward to the Arizona line, covering a vast swath of Riverside County, including all of Imperial County and a portion of eastern San Bernardino County. In 2022, Garcia won re-election against Republican Ian Calderon, who is now a candidate in this year’s 25th Congressional District race, with 53.4% of the vote.

In total, seven candidates—five Democrats and two Republicans—participated in the primary. Under California’s top-two primary system, regardless of party affiliation, the top two finishers in the primary will advance to the November general election.

Candidates:

Backing Garcia, advocates throw their weight behind Acuna, a Democrat with a rich history in education. Acuna’s journey began on the Coachella Valley Unified School District Board of Education in the ’90s, extending to his current tenure as trustee since 2014. Notably, Riverside County’s political figures, like Supervisor V. Manuel Perez and Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez, join Garcia in supporting Acuna’s bid.

Another candidate from the Valley is Democrat V. Manuel Farfan, who has been a member of the Indio City Council since 2018. In 2022, he served as the city’s first Black mayor during his annual leadership rotation. Farfan also works as a reform officer at the Calipatria State Prison in Imperial County. In preliminary returns posted Tuesday night, Farfan received 2,592 votes or 8.4%.

Two Republican candidates vied for the Assembly seat. Gonzalez, a businessman and former Marine residing in Indio, garnered notable support from conservatives, including U.S. Representative Ken Calvert and several Republican members of the California Legislature, as well as Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco. Gonzalez previously challenged Garcia for the Assembly District 56 seat in 2018, which was the district’s county before the latest round of redistricting. He made gains in the general election but ultimately lost to Garcia by a significant margin, receiving 35.2% of the vote compared to Garcia’s 64.8%.

Meanwhile, Democrat Tomas Oliva, who has been a member of the El Centro City Council since 2018, runs on his own merits in Imperial County for the seat. Oliva also works for the Imperial County Child Protective Services as an emergency response unit. Rodriguez received 1,563 votes in preliminary returns Tuesday night. Rodriguez, a former police officer in El Centro City, currently works for the Imperial County Child Protective Services.

Registration data shows that registered Democrats make up 43.8% of registered voters in the Assembly District, while registered Republicans account for nearly 27.3%. A significant portion of its registered voters—21.3%—have no party preference.

The general election is on November 5th.

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