SACRAMENTO – State Assemblyman Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) won a special election Tuesday to fill a vacant seat in the state Senate, receiving 62.6% of the vote against four other candidates and therefore avoiding a runoff in June.
With all precincts reporting, the unofficial election night tally saw Morrell run away with the contest for the 23rd Senate District seat vacated late last year when Sen. Bill Emmerson (R-Hemet) abruptly resigned.
Democrat educator/author Ronald J. O’Donnell of Highland finished a distant second Tuesday with 15.3% of the vote, followed by Democrat and government consultant Ameenah Fuller of Rancho Cucamonga, who took 9.5% of the tally. Calimesa City Councilman Jeff Hewitt, a Libertarian, finished fourth, with 6.5% of the vote, and San Jacinto Mayor Pro Tem Crystal Ruiz came in last with 6.1%.
The district includes portions of San Bernardino, Riverside and Los Angeles counties.
The results will not be official until thousands of provisional ballots are counted in the next few weeks.
Morrell's win was not a surprise. He was the best-known candidate, had a significant advantage in campaign funds and he had his party's support in a district where voter registration is 40.8% Republican, 34% Democratic.
State GOP Chairman Jim Brulte hailed the win, saying, "This is exactly the effort we need to achieve our goals in 2014."
Added Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar: "Mike has put the needs of his constituents first as a member of the California Assembly, and he will continue to do so as a Senator. The residents of the 23rd Senate District will be in great hands through Mike¹s commitment to public service."
The special election was called after Emmerson quit, saying “my passion has waned and my constituents deserve a senator with the level of commitment that I once had.”
An orthodontist before he was elected, Emmerson now heads the lobbying efforts of the California Hospital Assn.
Morrell's victory restores the state Senate to full membership, although two Democratic members have taken leaves of absence while they fight criminal charges.