A few surprises as Lemoore, Kings County voters cast their ballots on election day

By Ed Martin, Editor
A few surprises as Lemoore, Kings County voters cast their ballots on election day

There may have been a few surprises on election day in Kings County, but the only real head-turner occurred in the Lemoore City Council District A election where newcomer Stuart Lyons, a member of the Lemoore Volunteer Fire Department and a California state fire captain, defeated first-time councilmember and mayor, Ray Madrigal.

Also, on the ballot Tuesday, the Lemoore Elementary School District managed to convince Lemoore voters to approve Measure D, a $26 million bond measure to ease the district’s growing pains, modernize, and build a new elementary school as it faces a growing student population. On Tuesday, the bond measure passed rather easily, amassing 59.44 percent of the vote, needing just 55 percent for passage.

“We are so grateful to the bond campaign committee and all of the volunteers that served in great and small ways to donate time and personal resources,” said the school’s superintendent, Cheryl Hunt. “The LUESD School District and Board of Trustees are excited for the future of the District and the opportunities that our students will enjoy thanks to the community’s investment.” 

Hunt went on to say that the district will establish a Bond Oversight Committee quickly in the coming weeks and will begin the process of planning and taking steps to put the bond measure to work. The first project is likely to be HVAC updates at Lemoore Elementary and Liberty Middle School.

The Kings County Elections Department kept the public and anxious candidates waiting until 1:16 a.m. before releasing the final numbers early Wednesday morning, finally giving Lyons the nod over Madrigal. The final unofficial tally in District A had Lyons leading Madrigal 484 to 355, handing the challenger a healthy 129 vote margin.

Madrigal was circumspect about Tuesday’s results and indicated that while he wasn’t pleased with the final results, he understands that the ultimate verdict is a part of the Democratic process, which he respects. The mayor insists that he was the most qualified candidate, not just the most politically popular and that there were “forces” working against him he simply couldn’t overcome.

“Time will bring this out,” he said. “I hope there is someone among the new council who emerges as a true leader so that the will of the people is represented through this council. I have no regrets about actions I took or votes I made because I know I made them to make our city better even if not politically expedient.”

He went on to say that he was thankful and appreciative, having been given an opportunity to serve the city. He says that while he’s unsure of his immediate future, he will seek opportunities to serve the community. “Those who know my family’s history understand it is in our DNA to serve the community.”

For starters, he hopes to expand his role as a board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California to bring much-needed youth mentoring services to Kings County.

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to those people who supported me and believed in me throughout this process.  They were not wrong.”

The Leader contacted Tuesday’s winner in District A, Stuart Lyons, but he failed to respond to The Leader’s invitation.

Tuesday’s election was the first in Lemoore that citizens voted in district elections.

In Lemoore’s District C, first-time candidate Chad Billingsley amassed a total of 600 votes, easily outpolling challenger Tony Garcia, who finished with 179 Lemoore votes. Garcia, a first-time candidate, was somewhat of a stealth candidate who did little if any campaigning.

“I’m still trying to gather everything that happened last night. I was obviously very excited about the win,” said the Lemoore volunteer fireman who plans to retire from the local volunteer department after a 15-year tenure. He joins another volunteer fireman, Lyons, on the council. “I’m happy to have Stuart on the council, and I’m sure all the councilmembers will be able to work together.”

Assemblyman Rudy Salas had his hands full with his challenger, Hanford Councilman Justin Mendes, but thanks to a big turnout in Kern County, where most of his District 32 voters reside, Salas defeated Mendes 21,480 to 19,419, capturing his fourth two-year term in the California State Assembly. Mendes took the lion’s share of Kings County’s votes, defeating Salas 11,422 to 7,262.

On the State Senate side, Hanford farmer Andy Vidak, with 100 percent of the precincts reported in his Senate District 14 race against Sanger Councilmember Melissa Hurtado, is behind 52.1 percent to 47 percent in his bid for another term. Hurtado came from behind late last night to edge ahead of Vidak 41,247 to Vidak’s 38,873 votes.

Hurtado is optimistic in her campaign against Vidak. “While there are many more ballots that remain to be tallied, I am optimistic that our trend toward victory will continue,” she stated.

Democratic Challenger TJ Cox put up a good fight in his battle to claim the U.S. House of Representatives District 21 seat, currently occupied by three-termer David Valadao. Unfortunately for Cox, he narrowly lost in  Fresno County (12,482-10,648) but prevailed in Kern County compiling 12,609 votes to Valadao’s 9,699.

But when it came to Valadao’s Kings County home, local voters secured the hometown boy’s latest term, as voters outpolled Cox 12,182 to 6,521 for a final vote margin of 35,577 to 30,577.

“Despite our achievements, we must remain deliberate in our efforts to improve our community,” stated Valadao in a press release late Tuesday night declaring victory. “There is always work to be done, and with the help of my neighbors I will head back to Congress to improve our education system, increase or water supply, and ensure our Valley can continue to grow and thrive.”

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