By Collin Breaux
Based on unofficial results from this week’s Midterm Elections, representation in the California State Senate for the tri-city area of San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano may either be split between a Republican and Democrat or totally under the GOP.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 9, Republican Janet Nguyen led District 36, which represents San Clemente and Dana Point, with 58.3% (131,167) of the votes. Democrat Catherine Blakespear, meanwhile, faced a tight race in District 38—which covers San Juan Capistrano and unincorporated Rancho Mission Viejo—with 50.3% (108,548) of the votes.
Blakespear is currently the Encinitas mayor, while Nguyen is a state assemblymember. Democrat Kim Carr challenged Nguyen in District 36, while Republican Matt Gunderson ran against Blakespear in District 38.
“Right now, I’m only about 1,000 votes ahead of my opponent,” Blakespear said in a campaign email sent on Wednesday morning. “Over 200,000 votes have been counted in the State Senate race so far, and anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 ballots are expected to be counted in the coming weeks. So, until we have a clearer picture, this race is still too close to call.”
In an earlier statement sent on Tuesday night, shortly after early results came in, Blakespear said she had a lead “we feel very comfortable with.”
“We always knew this would be a close election, so it’s imperative that everyone who braved the weather and made it to the polls has their voice heard,” Blakespear said, referring to the storm surge that hit Southern California on Election Day. “We expect that when all the votes are counted, we will be victorious.”
Supporting women’s reproductive rights and protecting communities from gun violence were parts of Blakespear’s platform. She also said she would champion small businesses, protect California’s natural resources, and ensure a clean, reliable water supply for the state.
Kevin Sabellico, Blakespear’s campaign manager, said on Tuesday night that she was hopeful that when all the ballots were counted, she will be elected to the California State Senate.
“Our campaign will have a robust voter protection team ready (Wednesday) to make sure every legally cast ballot gets counted,” Sabellico said.
Gunderson had 49.7% (107,358) of votes as of Wednesday afternoon. He and his campaign had called the election a “very close race” and said they were “closely monitoring the results” as they came in.
“I feel confident that the results will go our way when the counting is through,” Gunderson said.
He further said he was “honored” to have received so much support from family, friends and “the thousands of Californians who trusted me with their vote.”
“I will continue to advocate for an affordable, safe and golden California,” Gunderson said.
Gunderson was an auto industry business owner and said one of the reasons he ran was because of Californians facing issues with the cost of living. Addressing homelessness through solutions that examine individual-level causes of the issue and returning economic opportunities back to the middle class were part of his platform.
Nguyen and Carr had not responded to requests for comment, as of press time.
As an assemblymember, Nguyen touted her experience with helping pass legislation to expand health care for the homeless, mentally ill and for lower-income families. She also highlighted efforts to stop tax increases and write bipartisan legislation to increase a renters’ tax credit to help families deal with the high cost of living.
Carr has been on the Huntington Beach City Council since 2018 and emphasized her efforts to respond to the 2021 oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach.
If elected, Carr said she would fight inflation by fixing supply chains and cutting red tape for local businesses, reduce homelessness by increasing mental health and housing support, and defend reproductive freedom and the right of all people to control their bodies.
Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.