Local Politics

Tuesday, Nov 06 2012 09:04 PM

Salas leading in tight 32nd Assembly race

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    On Election Night, Rudy Salas, right, got a hug from his cousin Pablo Salgado-Salas at the Central Labor Council hall. Salas was elected to the state Assembly that night.

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BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer aboessenkool@bakersfield.com

Democrat Rudy Salas has taken a narrow lead over Republican Pedro Rios in the closely watched 32nd Assembly District race Tuesday night.

Salas has 50.2 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting, just ahead of Rios' 49.8 percent. Only 268 votes separated the two as of 8:03 a.m. Wednesday.

The 32nd District covers much of the same territory as the former 30th District.

Salas had registration figures in his favor, even more so since district lines were redrawn after the 2010 census. Fifty percent of voters in the district are registered as Democrats, giving the party a 20-percentage-point advantage over Republicans.

Even so, the area, which includes all of Kings County and a northwest section of Kern, has been represented by a Republican since 2008. David Valadao currently represents the area but succeeded in his run for a Congressional seat.

The state Democratic Party targeted this and a handful of other seats as ones to take back from the GOP.

The mood at Salas' election night headquarters was loud and boisterous as supporters surrounded him with campaign signs while TV reporters waited to interview him.

"I feel good. I feel positive," Salas said. "The response we've gotten back from the community has just been great and overwhelming. Hopefully -- we don't know until every vote's counted, but until that time, we're waiting."

Rios previously said he wouldn't hold an election-night gathering but instead would retreat to the mountains to be alone and pray.

The 32nd Assembly race was competitive from the start. Once Salas and Rios survived the primary, campaigning began in earnest, with each camp walking precincts, amassing hundreds of thousands of dollars and collecting heavyweight endorsements.

Salas took in more than $1 million in donations, and Rios rolled up almost $682,000 in 2012.

Salas said Tuesday night that his priorities, were he to win, are "more jobs, better schools and safer neighborhoods. We've got to balance the budget in Sacramento."

Salas is a Bakersfield city councilman and was a staffer for former state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter.

Rios is a former Delano city councilman and owns two agriculture-related businesses in that city.

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