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With California’s primary election less than a month away, ballots begin heading to voters by mail Monday, marking a formal start to the 2022 election in the Coachella Valley and across the state.
Registered voters in Riverside County will be able to return their postage-paid ballots by U.S. Postal Service mail, or drop off their ballots at more than 80 locations starting Monday and running through Election Day, June 7. Additional locations where people can cast their ballots will open on May 28.
Residents have until May 23 to register to participate in the upcoming primary. Voter registration forms can be found at local post offices, libraries, city and county offices and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
California residents can also register to vote online at registertovote.ca.gov, or request a registration form in the mail by calling the Riverside County Registrar of Voters at 951-486-7200.
The June 7 election includes primaries for federal, statewide and legislative races, with the top two finishers advancing to the state’s general election Nov. 8.
The June election also includes several countywide races, which could be decided outright if one candidate receives a majority of the vote. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the top two candidates will advance to a November runoff election.
With election season underway, here is what voters in the Coachella Valley should be aware of before casting their ballots.
Redistricting shakes up Coachella Valley races for U.S. Congress
Late last year, California’s independent redistricting commission finished up its task of redrawing the state’s congressional and statehouse districts — and the new maps brought major changes to representation in the Coachella Valley.
The Coachella Valley, which had been unified in one congressional district since at least the 1990s, was split in two by the commission’s vote, despite some pushback from local residents.
In December, Rep. Raul Ruiz — a Democrat who has represented the entire valley since winning the seat in 2012 — announced he is seeking re-election in the newly drawn 25th congressional district, which includes Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs and Indio, along with all of Imperial County and a sliver of eastern San Bernardino County.
Ruiz is being challenged for the seat by six Republican candidates, including San Jacinto Councilmember Brian Hawkins, who has received the endorsement of the California Republican Party. Others vying to represent the 25th district are retired farmer James Gibson, media consultant Jonathan Reiss, engineering project manager Burt Thakur, small business owner Ceci Truman and physician Brian Tyson.
The other Coachella Valley congressional district formed by California’s redistricting process is the 41st district, which connects Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells and La Quinta with several cities in western Riverside County.
The 41st district already has an incumbent candidate: GOP Rep. Ken Calvert of Corona, who has represented pockets of Riverside County in Congress since 1993.
Calvert faces four challengers in the June primary, including Democrats Shrina Kurani and Will Rollins, Republican John Michael Lucio and no party preference candidate Anna Nevenic. Rollins, who moved to Palm Springs from Canyon Lake earlier this year, has been endorsed by Ruiz.
U.S. Senate ballot may be confusing
The U.S. Senate seat currently held by Alex Padilla is the subject of two votes: One for a person to serve 56 days (from when the election results are certified in November until Jan. 3, 2023) and another for the normal six-year term that starts in January. Confused? Here's why.
In 2021, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris became vice president. This gave Gov. Gavin Newsom the opportunity to appoint Padilla. The 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says Senate appointees should serve “until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”
As CalMatters has explained, last May, the California Legislature passed a law calling for the replacement vote to take place during the regularly scheduled November 2022 election. That’s why California voters will be asked to hire a senator to fill the remainder of Harris’ term — which ends in January and has drawn fewer candidates — and to hire a senator to serve the next term.
Could different applicants be hired for the short-term gig and the six-year term? Yes, and it wouldn’t be the first time. But Padilla has the backing of the Democratic establishment and is seen as the favorite.
There are 20 candidates hoping to unseat him, including Republican Mark Meuser, who ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2018; Christopher Theodore, a Democrat and founder of a Southern California quarterly magazine that has been accused of plagiarism; and Cordie Williams, a Carlsbard chiropractor and Republican who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, 2021, that culminated in the storming of the U.S. Capitol.
California Legislature races
While both Coachella Valley’s congressional races feature long-time incumbent candidates, the same can’t be said for some of the valley's races for the state Legislature.
Redistricting led to the formation of Assembly District 47, which includes Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, La Quinta, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, and Indian Wells, and extends into Yucca Valley in San Bernardino County.
A newcomer to the California Legislature will represent the district after Assemblymember Chad Mayes, I-Rancho Mirage, said in January that he would not seek re-election.
Candidates for the district include Palm Springs Councilmember and Democrat Christy Holstege, who has the endorsement of the state’s Democratic Party, and Mayes’ district director Greg Wallis, who has been backed by the California Republican Party.
Two other candidates are also running in the Assembly race: businesswoman Jamie Swain, a Democrat, and small business owner Gary Michaels, a Republican.
Meanwhile, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, is seeking another term in the Legislature, running in Assembly District 36, which includes Coachella, Indio and all of Imperial County. He will face off against GOP candidate Ian Weeks, who has won the state party’s endorsement, and Democrat Marlon Ware.
Another legislative race that will feature only newcomers is the competition for one of the valley’s two state Senate districts, which were also created through redistricting.
The race for Senate District 18, which includes Indio and Coachella, along with all of Imperial County and portions of San Bernardino and San Diego counties, is a face-off between Chula Vista City Councilmember Steve Padilla, a Democrat, and military veteran and small business owner Alejandro Galicia, a Republican.
The Coachella Valley’s other Senate seat — Senate District 19, which includes Palm Springs — won’t be up for grabs until 2024.
County-level races could be decided in June
While congressional, legislative and statewide races will feature a general election in November, races for county-level seats could be decided in June, depending on how much support the leading candidate receives.
Among the races in Riverside County is one for the region’s top prosecutorial position, as District Attorney Mike Hestrin, who has held the seat since 2015, faces two challengers: Superior Court Judge Burke Strunsky and constitutional habeas attorney Lara Gressley.
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco will be seeking re-election to a second term as the county’s top law enforcement officer. He will face retired Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Michael Lujan, who entered the race in March.
The Coachella Valley’s representative on the county Board of Supervisors, Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, has no challengers on the ballot.
Statewide races feature several challengers for governor, attorney general
Less than a year after California voters rejected an effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, voters will again decide who they want to be the state's next governor.
Newsom is seeking a second term with few major challengers within the Democratic Party. None of the major opponents from last year’s recall, such as Republican radio talk-show host Larry Elder, are running against Newsom this time.
In April, the California Republican Party endorsed state Sen. Brian Dahle, from Lassen County, in the race.
Michael Shellenberger, a Democrat-turned-independent from the Bay Area, is also among the most prominent candidates seeking to replace Newsom as governor. He is the author of several books including "San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities" and "Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All."
A much-discussed issue in this year’s races — crime —could factor into the state’s attorney general race. Democrat Rob Bonta, who was appointed to the position in March 2021, will be seeking election to his first full term in office.
Former assistant U.S. attorney general Nathan Hochman has won the endorsement of the Republican Party in the race, over fellow GOP candidate and attorney Eric Early.
Both Hochman and Early are competing against Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a former Republican now running as an independent, to be the top challenger against Bonta in November. Schubert has won the support of several law enforcement groups in the state.
Other statewide races on the primary ballot:
Lieutenant governor. Democrat Eleni Kounalakis is seeking re-election and is facing seven challengers in the primary.
Controller. Incumbent Betty Yee is in her second term and can’t run again due to term limits. This position is essentially the state's top accountant and bookkeeper, who oversees the payout of public funds for the next four years. Six candidates are in the race. The lone Republican is Lanhee Chen, a program director, lecturer and fellow at Stanford University. The four Democrats are Ron Galperin, the current controller for the City of Los Angeles; state Sen. Steve Glazer; Malia Cohen, a member of the state Board of Equalization; and Yvonne Yiu, a retired asset manager and member of the Monterey Park City Council. Laura Wells, a financial analyst, is running as a Green Party member.
Secretary of state. Assemblymember Shirley Weber was appointed to the job last year after Alex Padilla was named to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated when Kamala Harris became vice president. Weber, a Democrat, is now seeking election to the seat and is facing six challengers, including Republicans Rob Bernosky and Rachel Hamm
Treasurer. Incumbent Fiona Ma, a Democrat, is facing three challengers, including Republicans Andrew Do and Jack M. Guerrero.
Insurance commissioner. Democrat incumbent Richard Lara is being challenged by Democratic Assemblymember Marc Levine, Republican CPA Greg Conlon and six other candidates.
Superintendent of Public Instruction. The incumbent in this nonpartisan office, Tony Thurmond, is being challenged by six candidates, including Marco Amaral from San Diego County and George Yang from the Bay Area. Amaral is the board president of the South Bay Union School District. Yang is an engineer and has one child who attends public school and a second who attends Catholic school.
State Board of Equalization. Riverside County voters will choose a representative for District 4 on this panel that is charged with tax administration and fee collection. Incumbent Mike Schafer, a Democrat, faces six challengers.
How to track your ballot
California voters can track their ballot to find out when it is mailed, received, and counted.
Voters can register for updates online at WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov.
When you sign up for the service, you will receive automatic updates when your county elections office:
Mails your ballot.
Receives your ballot.
Counts your ballot.
Finds an issue with your ballot.
Voters can choose to receive updates by email, text message, or voice call.
Tom Coulter covers politics and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CalMatters contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: California primary election: Riverside County races on line