First District Riverside County Supervisor Bob Buster received the highest number of votes in Tuesday's bid for the 1st District seat, but he failed to claim the majority needed to avoid a run-off, which currently pits him against an outgoing Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore) in the November general election.
Or maybe a he'll face off against a former highway patrolman, depending on the final ballot tally.
but with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Jeffries and retired California Highway Patrol Cmdr. Mike Soubirous were only 412 votes apart, with Jeffries ahead.
Buster received 38 percent of the vote, to Jeffries' 31 percent and Soubirous' 30 percent.
According to Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil, 38,000 absentee, 7,000 provisional and 4,200 damaged ballots have yet to be processed. The official tally will not be updated again until 6 p.m. Friday, she said.
"I'm waiting until the votes are certified in 20 days before I say anything is finished," Soubirous told City News Service. "If by the time of certification, there's only 100 votes separating Mr. Jeffries and me, then I'd owe it to the voters to make sure everything is accurate (and ask for a recount)."
According to the career lawman, the election results reflect the divisions within the first district, with arguably each candidate claiming around a third of the vote.
"I'm a guy who's never held political office before and walked into the fray, challenged an incumbent who has never lost and made a significant dent," Soubirous said. "I can look myself in the mirror and know -- 100 percent -- that I ran a clean race. There was no mudslinging. I stayed on my target, Bob Buster, and never mentioned Mr. Jeffries once."
On his campaign website, Jeffries lauded Soubirous for eschewing "a negative campaign." The legislator also pointed out that the election returns show that "61 percent of the voters did not support the incumbent."
"This is very significant as (Mr. Buster) has never been in a run-off election since his first election back in 1992," Jeffries said.
Buster was not immediately available for comment.
The 67-year-old is seeking his sixth term in office. The run-off election will be Nov. 6.
Jeffries, 51, is being termed out of office after six years in the Assembly. The Lake Elsinore resident and 30-year volunteer firefighter has been endorsed by a number of groups, including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the National Tax Limitation Committee and the Riverside County Deputy District Attorneys' Association.
In campaign literature, Jeffries stated that he has been a champion of "taxpayer rights" and worked to curb wasteful spending in state government. He argued that the county is stacked with too many "bureaucracies and regulations" that should be reduced or eliminated, while supervisors' and other county officials' "bloated" salaries and benefits should be slashed to save money.
Both Jeffries and Soubirous support capping supervisors' pay at $100,000. Board members are paid $143,000 annually, not including car perks and other benefits and allowances.
Soubirous criticized county leaders for not adequately supporting the county's public safety apparatus in recent budget cycles. The bulk of the 54- year-old's campaign contributions -- more than $200,000 -- came from the Riverside Sheriffs' Association, the union representing deputies.
The RSA, along with the Service Employees International Union and other labor organizations, oppose Buster's re-election, reflecting the opposition the incumbent has generated by backing pension reform and other measures in response to the county's budgetary red ink, which the unions have argued is overblown for political purposes.
According to Buster, his most recent term in office has been marked by a fiscally conservative stewardship of public money and a dedication to job- creation, citing his advocacy of the UC Riverside School of Medicine and expansion of Hunter Park at March Air Reserve Base as examples.
The 20-year county supervisor and citrus farmer has been endorsed by fellow Supervisors John Benoit and Jeff Stone, as well as District Attorney Paul Zellerbach.
The First District encompasses most of the eastern half of the city of Riverside, stretching south to Lake Elsinore and Wildomar and west to El Cariso.