Outgoing Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries Monday widened his lead over Riverside County Supervisor Bob Buster in the race to represent the county's First District, boosting the challenger's hopes that the election cliffhanger is finally nearing a winner.
"Numerically, we believe this is the highest lead we've ever had in the last two weeks," Jeffries told City News Service. "We're feeling really good about the results."
Buster did not immediately return calls for comment.
The latest ballot count from the Nov. 6 general election had Jeffries, R- Lake Elsinore, with 56,826 votes compared to 55,692 for Buster, or 50.50 percent to 49.50 percent.
According to the Registrar of Votes' website, 33,000 provisional ballots were left to be processed. Generally, provisional ballots are requested at polling places when a person seeks to cast a ballot but his or her name does not appear on voter registration rolls. They're asked to vote provisionally, and then the county conducts research to confirm they're actually registered so their vote can be tabulated. Otherwise, it's rejected.
The next vote count update is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Jeffries said he's holding off on initiating transition plans until the outcome of the election is unequivocal.
"Frankly, I didn't want to jinx myself," Jeffries told City News Service. "I've been eagerly awaiting this opportunity. Tonight's election results seem to have delivered the results we needed."
This was the first time Buster had been forced into a runoff election since his inaugural campaign in 1992. The Harvard-educated citrus farmer failed to win more than 50 percent of the vote in the June primary.
Campaign filings showed both Buster and Jeffries spent six-figure amounts on their races, though Buster raised 60 percent more.
Buster's camp underscored a record of trying to improve the local economy and save the county money through public employee pension reform and the acquisition of federal grants for transportation projects that employee local workers.
Jeffries criticized Buster's six-figure pension and vowed that if elected, he would work to convert all the supervisors' retirement plans to self- funded 401(k)s. The property management firm owner also blasted the incumbent for supporting some aspects of Gov. Jerry Brown's 2011 "realignment" initiative that resulted in many state responsibilities being shifted onto counties.
-City News Service