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Political analysis: incumbents performed well statewide, low voter turnout

Monica Velez
Valley Public Radio

Fresno State political science professor Lisa Bryant talks about what it all means for November.

Even as ballots are still being counted following Tuesday’s June primary, political experts say some trends are starting to emerge from this election.

Out of the four million ballots counted so far in California, statewide turnout is at 20 percent. The historic low was 25 percent in 2014.

Fresno State political science professor Lisa Bryant says a “low energy” primary may have contributed to a low voter turnout, with lack of campaigning influencing voter interest.

“I mean even for some of the top races there was not a lot of campaigning. There was not a lot of outreach,” she said. “As much as campaigning sort of annoys us as voters, sometimes it does help voters make decisions.”

But, she says, there was one race that saw a lot of campaigning: Fresno City Council District 1. It came down to two candidates: Annalisa Perea, a trustee with the State Center Community College District and Cary Catalano, a business owner.

Perea’s campaign has officially claimed victory with 57 percent of the vote, ahead of Catalano’s 25 percent. Bryant said Perea’s win was no surprise. “She, of course, has a family legacy and has served for the State Center Community College District on their board and that carries some weight with her.”

Perea comes from a family with a political legacy in the Central Valley. Her father, Henry R. Perea, served as a Fresno County Supervisor. Her brother, Henry T. Perea, served on the Fresno City Council.

Overall, Fresno City Council district incumbents performed well in the election. As of Thursday, Miguel Arias has 61 percent of the vote in District 3. Luis Chavez carries 55 percent in District 5 and Nelson Esparza is up to 66 percent in District 7. Tuesday night, Esparza called the trend a “mandate” from voters.

“That message is keep doing what you are doing in terms of fighting for our neighborhoods, fighting to rebuild the oldest parts of the city,” he said.

Bryant said overall low voter turnout may be why so many incumbents performed so well statewide too, another trend she noticed in races like Insurance Commissioner and Board of Equalization.

“There's not a lot of information in those races and it can be really hard for people to research the background and positions and thinking,” Bryant said.

Bryant believes this election’s turnout could be an indicator of what happens in November.

“The fact that we see, you know, record low unemployment. The fact that we see people not curbing their spending might indicate that they're not as angry as they have been in previous recession years,” she said.

Fresno County will update its next vote totals Friday, June 10th.

Soreath Hok is a multimedia journalist with experience in radio, television and digital production. She is a 2022 National Edward R. Murrow Award winner. At KVPR she covers local government, politics and other local news.