By Ruth Musser-Lopez
The results are in. As of 3:41 p.m. on November 23, it appears that 642,362 of San Bernardino County’s 888,019 voters participated in the November 8, 2016 General Election.
Most of these votes were from urban areas and the majority voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton, which kept the county “blue” at 52% to 42%. Democrat Kamala Harris also won in San Bernardino County, with roughly 55% to sister Democrat Loretta Sanchez’s 45% countywide.
Donald J. Trump did not do as well in his bid for the presidency in San Bernardino County as did John McCain or Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012 against Barak Obama, each Republican receiving about 45% as opposed to Trump’s 42%. This may indicate that about 3% of Republicans simply withheld their vote. In surrounding rural counties, Clinton faired even better in Imperial County at 70% – 30%, in Mono 52% – 40% and Riverside 50% – 45%
The reverse is true in Kern County and the Central Valley, which continue to be red. Trump fetched 60% of the vote there and 53% in Inyo and in Tulare 53%. Republican unity behind the GOP candidate continues to be the rule across the “Joad belt,” which basically follows the midwest migration pattern of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath family from Needles to Barstow, through the Tehachapis and into Bakersfield and filling the Central Valley up to Fresno.
The evidence of the disparity of voting pattern in the Inland Empire of San Bernardino and the desert I-40/58 Dust Belt is reflected in the numbers from the Congressional, State Assembly and Senate district and supervisorial district results.
Looking at surrounding Congressional districts, in Imperial County’s CD51, Juan Vargas, a Democrat won hands down with 72%. In Riverside County, Democrat Raul Ruiz won 61% in CD36, Mark Takano won 64% in CD41 leaving only one congressional seat, CD42, with a Republican frontrunner—Ken Calvert. In the Inland portion of San Bernardino County, Congressman Pete Aguire held firmly to his title against Paul Chabot.
The opposite is true in desert San Bernardino County, Kern and Tulare. Representative Paul Cook in CD8 won decisively, 194,000 votes with observably little campaigning against challenger Dr. Rita Ramirez-Dean’s 122,000 votes. Kevin McCarthy remains in the house seat for CD23, defeating Democrat Wendy Reed. In CD21, David Valadao remains in place, having vanquished Democrat Emilio Huerta, the son of Delores Huerta, the champion of farm labor rights who was an activist alongside Caesar Chavez in the 1960s and 1970s. In Tulare’s CD22, Kevin Nunes kept his seat but Louie Campos like Reed and Huerta gave the Republicans a reasonable run for their money.
The contrast of the Republican hold in the Joad Belt as opposed to adjacent areas is striking when you consider that Cook received overall 63% of the vote and Ramirez-Dean 37% as opposed to the vote in less populated Mono County where Cook and Ramirez-Dean nearly tied.
In the west desert’s State Senate District 21 there were about 90,000 voters with 50,000 or thereabouts going to Republican Scott Wilk and 40,000 to Democrat Jonathan Ervin despite the infusion of about $800,000 from the California Democratic Party to the latter’s campaign fund, the Sentinel is informed. The picture changes when the LA County votes are considered. There, Wilk received 54% to Ervin’s 45%, but since LA County is only a small part of the district, his performance there was not enough to change the outcome.
Also in the far western portion of San Bernardino County’s desert around Palmdale, we had a race for State Assembly District 36 with Democrat Steve Fox making a comeback attempt against now incumbent Republican Tom Lackey. In San Bernardino County the Republican received 70% as opposed to 30% for Fox. The count was more favorable toward Fox outside of the San Bernardino County portion of the district with cross county totals coming in at…55% to 44%.
In the desert around Morongo Valley and 29 Palms, similar percentages of 66 to 33% for Republicans vs. Democrats were registered with Chad Mayes keeping his seat against challenger Greg Rodriguez for State Assembly District 42. When Riverside’s totals were counted in it was a closer race with 58% to 42%.
In the eastern Mojave Desert from Barstow to Needles, the AD33 race is entirely contained in San Bernardino County. New Democrat Scott Markovich, who ran as a Republican in the same race in 2014, fared better this time, first beating out former Assemblyman Tim Donnelly’s punch back at the position during the primaries and coming in the top two against Republican incumbent Jay Olbernolte. In the General, the Olbernolte-Markovich match ended with a 20 percentage point spread as opposed to 30 or even 40 % in other rural districts of the county. Markovich fetched 53,637 votes against Olbernote’s plus 781,330 for a total of 134,967 votes in that district.
According to Mike Curran, who is on the Democratic Executive Board representing AD33 “the vote spread has basically been the same for the last 30 years.” The odds have apparently discouraged Democrats from running against the heavily-advantaged Republican candidates. The county’s First District supervisorial race in the General was between two Republicans, incumbent Robert Lovingood and challenger Angela Valles. Pockets of isolationist voters exist in the rural desert areas. Valles made a failed attempt to gain victory by appealing to this constituency, leading a protest march against 25 immigrant Syrian families who were brought in by Catholic charities after 3 years of vetting.
The protest march that Valles led took place on the Bear Valley Road bridge across the I-15 freeway in the Victor Valley. This march was met with protestors protesting the protestors.
One bright spot for Democrats in the desert was a local race where a candidate endorsed by the party, Blanca Gomez, won a seat on the Victorville City Council. According to Curran, “things are changing in that part of the desert, which cannot really be considered ‘rural’ anymore with an approximate 367,000 population in Victorville, Adelanto, Hesperia and Apple Valley.”
By Ruth Musser-Lopez