Local Politics

Friday, Jul 26 2013 05:59 PM

Vidak now 'cautiously positive' he's won the 16th

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    By Tomas Ovalle / Special to The Californian

    Andy Vidak has an election gathering at his cherry farm in Hanford in July.

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    By Tomas Ovalle / Special to The Californian

    Hanford -- Andy Vidak has an election gathering at his cherry farm in Hanford as he and supporters check results in the 16th District special election against Democrat Leticia Perez.

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BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

Final vote counts in Kern, Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties Friday have eliminated any uncertainty that lingered about the outcome of the 16th Sentate District race.

This time there will be no come-from-behind win for Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez.

About 870 votes remained uncounted in Fresno County. But Hanford Republican Andy Vidak still held a 3,442-vote lead over Perez, numerically eliminating her from the race that she acknowledged Wednesday she had lost.

This time around, Perez's concession will stick.

Perez earned the "Come-Back Kid" nickname in May after her campaign conceded and all of the state's major news outlets reported that Vidak would collect the more than 50 percent of the vote need to win the five-candidate primary election for the heavily Democratic 16th Senate District.

But Election Day votes, mail ballots turned in late and provisional ballots went strongly for Perez and, after The Californian reported there was a chance Perez might jump back into the race, Vidak's lead did indeed drop under the 50 percent mark needed for an outright win.

This Friday, Vidak started the day with a 5,351-vote lead over Perez and 53.6 percent of the vote.

By the end of the day -- after Perez got friendly vote swings from outstanding ballot counts in Kern, Tulare and Fresno -- Vidak's lead had been cut to 3,442.

But he held on to 52.1 percent of the vote and a more than 4 percent advantage over the Democrat with fewer votes uncounted than his lead.

Fresno County elections officials said there were 870 ballots still to count there.

For Vidak, the win proved to be his "third-time's the charm" after late voting in Kern and Fresno counties cost him a congressional challenge of Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, in 2010 and an outright win in the 16th District primary.

Vidak campaign consultant Tim Orman said the win is just now sinking in for Vidak, who has been a little wary -- thanks to past disappointments -- of claiming a victory early.

But on Friday afternoon the campaign's standard response to post-election questions of "We're cautiously optimistic" changed a bit.

"We're cautiously positive we've won now," Orman said.

The focus for Vidak now is getting sworn in and establishing offices prior to the legislature's return to work on Aug. 12.

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