Nearly 44,000 mail-in ballots have been turned in so far for Tuesday's special primary election in the 23rd state Senate district, where five candidates are vying for a seat vacated last fall.
The number represents about a fifth of the 223,123 absentee ballots mailed to registered voters during the last week of February, according to the Riverside County and San Bernardino County registrar of voters' offices.
Those still in possession of absentee ballots and intending to vote have until election day to mail them to the appropriate registrar's office.
Polling stations open at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
The special primary election was called by the governor in December, following the resignation of Sen. Bill Emmerson on Nov. 8. Emmerson, who had served three terms in the state assembly before his election to the senate in 2010, released a statement saying his "level of commitment" to the job was waning, and he felt constituents deserved better representation.
The 23rd senate district runs from Hemet north to Big Bear, east to Cabazon and west to Rancho Cucamonga.
Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, San Jacinto Mayor Crystal Ruiz, also a Republican, and Calimesa City Councilman Jeff Hewitt, a Libertarian, make up the slate of elected officials on the ballot. The other contenders are Democrats Ameenah Fuller and Ronald O'Donnell.
In campaign literature, Morrell touts his legislative experience and two decades as a business owner as qualities voters should consider. He said if elected to the senate, he would push for a balanced state budget, a reduction in the state bureaucracy and higher academic standards.
Ruiz said if elected, her top priorities would be public safety and jobs.
"I believe we can fix the economy, but we need to get people working in order to do so," she said in a campaign statement.
Hewitt said his lifelong Inland Empire residency gave him a "deep appreciation" for the needs of the district. The swimming pool contractor said his nearly four years on the Calimesa City Council and the San Gorgonio Pass Water Task Force had served to enlighten him on ways to address the region's and state's most pressing issues.
According to Fuller's campaign website, the Rancho Cucamonga resident has worked as a healthcare policy consultant and senate legislative analyst.
She believes "affordable green homes and businesses (are) the way of the future," and the state's tax laws should reflect that.
O'Donnell, an attorney, said if elected he would work to put the kibosh on "foreclosure mills" by introducing legislation titled "Jail the Banksters." He said illegal repossession of properties is rampant, especially in the IE.
The candidate said he also favors another hike in the minimum wage and would support a quasi-amnesty program for illegal immigrants.
If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote Tuesday, the two contenders with the largest number of votes will square off in the June 3 election.
– City News Service.