Late into Election Night, Livingston Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza said he had beaten longtime incumbent John Pedrozo — a once major political power in Merced County — in the race for the District 1 seat on the Board of Supervisors.
“We consider it a win,” Espinoza told the Sun-Star. “We’re joyful. The citizens of District 1 supported me. We’re going to help District 1 and all of Merced County.”
Pedrozo, however, did not concede the race Tuesday night — at least publicly.
In a gathering of his supporters at the Courtyard Marriott in Merced, a downbeat Pedrozo thanked his supporters behind closed doors in a short speech just before 11 p.m.
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“I have my family, I have my faith, I have my friends, we’ll move on,” he told supporters.
However, the longtime supervisor declined to concede the race outright, saying “we’ll see how this plays out over the next couple of days.” He declined to comment on whether he plans to seek a recount.
Espinoza’s narrow lead grew slowly but steadily throughout the night. The slim margin went from 38 to more than 100 votes over Pedrozo. Espinoza took a significant jump at 10:40 p.m., picking up a lead of 289 votes, primarily from Livingston precincts, where he has been the mayor since 2010.
The 48-year-old Livingston mayor held 54.97 percent to Pedrozo’s 44.67 percent as of midnight with all 63 precincts reporting.
Espinoza, speaking by phone, said Pedrozo likely faced a challenge stronger than he expected.
“He probably thought he was going to win pretty easily,” Espinoza said, “but I think the community is responding. We have a need for change in our county and all of our communities. We need more investment, not just in our youth but in our youth, in our roads. We need improvements in crime and we need more businesses.”
Pedrozo told the Sun-Star he has been in tight races before. When asked about the fight put up by Espinoza, Pedrozo said he was “staying positive.”
“We’re waiting for the final results to see how everything plays out,” Pedrozo told the Sun-Star.
Espinoza said voters in District 1 have wanted change for a long time. “The representation has not been there.”
Pedrozo, 58, first was elected in 2004 when he beat Diana Padilla 61 percent to 37.2 percent. Pedrozo was unopposed in 2008 and cruised to another easy win in 2012 with more than 62 percent of the vote to Jim Pacheco’s 37.06 percent, according to county and Sun-Star archives.
In the District 2 race, incumbent Hub Walsh was poised to head into a run-off against community organizer Lee Lor. With all 59 precincts reporting, Walsh had 39.27 percent of the vote compared to 38.81 for Lor. They were separated by just 29 votes. Radio talk show host Casey Steed had 21.84 percent.
Three of the board’s five seats are up for election, giving Merced County voters an opportunity to reshape the body’s majority. Walsh was first elected to the board in 2008. In District 4, Supervisor Deidre Kelsey is retiring after 20 years on the board.
With all 55 precincts reporting in the open District 4 race, Merced River School District board member Lloyd Pareira had more than 42.11 percent of the vote. Former Gustine Mayor Rich Ford followed with more than 23.25 percent; Delhi Unified School District board President Fidel Cervantes had nearly 15.3 percent; businessman Jack Mobley had more than 12.5 percent; and Delhi community leader Ramon Prado had 6.6 percent.
Without a majority win, the top two finishers in Tuesday’s election will advance to the runoff in November.