As the smoke settles from our recent elections, Southwest Riverside County saw some things stay the same while a number of things changed. At the federal level we retained our local Congressional delegation Ken Calvert representing District 42, and Duncan Hunter representing District 50, though how long Mr. Hunter will remain in office is open to conjecture given his recent indictments. These two join only six more Republicans out of a 53 member California Congressional delegation returning to Washington as the minority party after the mid-term shake-up.
Statewide elections also saw the return of our local incumbents Senator Jeff Stone in the 28th District, and Assembly Members Melissa Melendez in District 67 and Marie Waldron in District 75. They will also be returning to a state legislature dominated by Democratic members elected to a super-majority in both chambers plus a Democratic Governor, allowing Democrats to raise taxes, suspend legislative rules and override vetoes without Republican votes.
Local elections brought changes to both our county and city governments. While races to fill vacancies on the County Board of Supervisors are still being decided as of this writing, the five member panel will include two brand new members and one recent appointee (re-elected). Replacing over 40 years of (retired) institutional knowledge of county government could have a profound impact on the direction of Riverside County, especially with the election of a new County Sheriff in Chad Bianco, coupled with the recent decision by the City of Menifee to pursue their own course in public safety. Local Supervisors Chuck Washington and Kevin Jeffries will stand for re-election in 2020. With six years on the board, Supervisor Jeffries becomes the senior voice on the panel.
Local cities voted under recently established district guidelines for the first time in their history. Under threat of (nuisance) lawsuit, the stated goal of forcing municipalities to vote by district was to bring diversity to the dais and add minority members to the council.
Of course we knew that was a false premise to begin with and in cities like our own that disperse a diverse population throughout our communities, it becomes even more of a non-starter. The only positive of by-district election is the ability of more folks to run a campaign targeting a potential pool of 10,000 voters instead of 100,000, where as few as 2,000 votes could carry the day and campaign funding may be less demanding.
The Temecula City Council will welcome one new member as Zak Schwank, former Community Services Commissioner, fills the District 5 seat vacated by the retirement of Jeff Comerchero. He will be joining recently re-elected council members Matt Rahn (District 1) and Maryann Edwards (District 3) along with Mike Naggar and Stew Stewart, who will be standing for re-election in 2020.
Murrieta’s council will also see some changes as new members were elected to fill vacated seats held by retiring members Rick Gibbs and Alan Long. Two new members will join incumbents Randon Lane and Kelly Seyarto, who will stand for re-election in 2020. In one of the few contentious races in a local city election, Christi White defeated three other candidates including former council member Harry Ramos to earn a seat from District 2. Long-time resident Scott Vinton ran unopposed to win a seat representing District 5, and incumbent Jonathan Ingram also ran unopposed to retain his seat from District 1.
Murrieta also passed Measure T, a 1% sales tax increase similar to that passed by Temecula in 2016. This measure is expected to generate revenue to support additional public safety and infrastructure demands.
As our cities currently serve as fiscally prudent models that the rest of the state should emulate, we do not expect any wholesale changes to either direction or implementation of policy brought by our newest council members. The Southwest Region will remain a business friendly, public safety oriented oasis in the otherwise arid landscape that threatens to overtake our state. The Valley Business Journal, ‘The Face of Business in Southwest Riverside County’, wishes to congratulate all new and returning members of our elected bodies and encourages your ongoing dialogue with our business community we have established over the past three decades.