Lucky seven puts Harrell over Jones in District 3

Steve Harrell unseats incumbent Carlton Jones on Tulare City Council by just seven votes

TULARE COUNTY – The Tulare County Elections Office certified the election on Monday, Nov. 30 after sending out the final election results last Wednesday, Nov. 25. Over the last four weeks many in Tulare’s third district waited with bated breath how the election would turn out between incumbent Carlton Jones and former Tulare police officer, Steve Harrell.

Harrell’s margin of victory could not have been much closer. By the time all the votes were counted, he surpassed Jones by two-tenths of a percent, amounting to just a seven vote difference – 1,823 to Jones’ 1,816.

“I really had no idea how it was going to turn out…with every registered voter getting a ballot, that changed the whole picture as far as I was concerned,” Harrell said.

Harrell’s win represents a trifecta loss for Jones’ campaign coalition that also included incumbent Greg Nunley and challenger Clara Bernardo. The three candidates supported each other on social media but were unable to win in their respective races. Bernardo only garnered a little more than a third of the vote against incumbent and current mayor Jose Sigala while Nunley only mustered 12% of the vote, good enough for fourth place in a field of five candidates. Patrick Isherwood will replace Nunley on the council after capturing 38% of the vote.

Harrell said after he was up by 50 votes on election night, he told his supporters to “stand down” before prematurely claiming victory. After a couple of weeks watching the lead change by a handful of votes here and there Harrell said he grew tired of watching the numbers.

“I said, there is nothing I can do about it so at this point I’m not going to pay attention to it,” Harrell said about the election results.

Carlton Jones
Current City Councilman District 3

Jones said that he was not going to request a recount from the county, and added that he believes in elections and appreciates the job done by the personnel in the elections office.

Because there is not a minimum margin of error that would trigger an automatic recount, Jones would not only have to request one, but also pay for it himself. Jones said that he just purchased a new house, and with the holidays upon us he could not justify spending that sort of money.

Jones said because of the busy fire season this year he was unable to campaign as much as he would have liked. Nonetheless he was happy to see that voter turnout was up.

“I thank all of the people who supported me over the years. I’m going to enjoy my time with my family and always root for Tulare,” Jones said.

In his comments to The Sun-Gazette he did not rule out running for the seat again saying, “Let’s all get to 2024 and we’ll run it back.”

Other city council races

Dinuba City Council will have a new face as Rachel Nerio-Guerrero defeated Joshua Huerta for the Ward 1 seat. Nerio-Guerrero, a self-sufficiency assistant for the county, will replace Emilio Morales on the council, who did not seek re-election after serving several terms. Linda Launer will be back after garnering more than 50% of the vote in a three-way race for the Ward 5 seat.

It was a similar situation in Porterville where longtime council member Virginia Gurrola did not seek re-election. The vacancy was filled by Kellie Carrillo, a community services administrator, who edged out retired lawman Jerry Hall by just 97 votes in a three-way race that also included Josh Sulier. Gurrola had served for two-straight terms on the council from 2012-2020 and had previously served two terms from 1995-2003. Incumbent Martha Flores will return for a second term after defeating challenger Michael Smith for the District 3 seat on the council. Flores captured more than 54% of the vote.

Congress

David Valadao made history with his win. After taking back California’s 21st Congressional District race he is among just a few to lose a seat in the House of Representatives only to win it back two years later against the same opponent. Valadao declared victory just before Thanksgiving in a Nov. 25 press release on his campaign web site, valadaoforcongress.com.

“With the vote count across California’s Twenty First Congressional District nearly complete, it is clear the record number of Central Valley voters who turned out in this election have spoken, and David Valadao will be going back to Congress in January to fight for the Central Valley,” the statement read.

The Associated Press called the race for Valadao on Friday Nov. 27.

As of press time, Valadao was ahead by 1,729 votes districtwide, which includes portions of Fresno, Kings, Kern and Tulare counties. Valadao clearly won Fresno and Kings counties, with the latter just 17 votes away from certifying its election. Tulare County, the smallest portion of the congressional district, was split down the middle with Cox finishing with just nine more votes than Valadao. Where Kern County turned out for Cox in 2018, and gave him enough votes to topple Valadao, it just was not enough this time around. Still, taking 58.4% of the vote against Valadao’s 41.6% is a valiant effort in a razor close race.

Valadao was a three-term incumbent when he lost to engineer T.J. Cox in 2018 by just 862 votes in what went down as the last House race to be decided that year. The election was so close Valadao did not concede until more than a month after the election. Cox may now find himself in a similar situation this year.

“2018 taught us it’s not over until every vote is counted,” Cox said on his social media. “Taking that lesson to heart, I do not plan to make a statement on the outcome of the election until every vote is counted and we have the final results, certified by all four counties in this district.”

Local measures

It probably wasn’t a good time to put a hotel tax on the ballot as two cities failed in their efforts to increase what visitors pay to stay in their cities as the hospitality industry has been crippled by COVID.

Measure S in Porterville would have imposed a 4% tax on all hotel bookings, both traditional and online, also known as bed tax or transient occupancy tax. The measure would have increased the city’s current “bed tax” from 8% to 12%, making it the highest in the county but failed after garnering 47% of the vote. The money will be used to promote economic development within the community, tourism and for the Mighty 190 campaign to raise awareness of the scenic Highway 190. From Highway 99 to the Sierra Nevada, offers world class biking, camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, off-road vehicles, rock climbing at Success Lake, Balch Park, Sequoia National Monument, and the Giant Sequoia National Monument. The county is partnering with a score of other agencies to promote tourism traffic along highway. The Mighty 190 South County Tourism Group said they have already developed “Mighty190” branding and a logo, bought the Mighty 190 web site domain, created social media accounts and built an informational board and restrooms at Success Lake Vista Point that was installed by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Farmersville voters were faced with a similar hotel tax on the ballot but Measure Q fell just 23 votes short of passing. The measure would have imposed a 10% tax on all bookings at hotels in Farmersville, which at this time there are none. The 10% rate would be equal to TOTs in Dinuba, Tulare and Visalia but more than the 8% charged in Exeter, Lindsay and Porterville. The tax can be a flat rate per night or a percentage of room fees charged by the hotel. If passed, the tax is estimated to raise $185,000 the city could use for economic development and city services.

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