It was a sure bet that a Republican would win the state’s 12th Assembly District seat, but whether it would be former San Joaquin County Supervisor Ken Vogel or public office newcomer Heath Flora was decided Tuesday night as preliminary results were released, showing Flora with an early yet substantial lead.
With the votes of 141 of 207 precincts in the Stanislaus County counted as of 10 p.m. Tuesday night, initial results showed Flora receiving 54.93 percent of the vote, while Vogel had received 45.07 percent. With 25,311 votes compared to Vogel’s 20,769, the inexperienced Flora’s lead came as a surprise against Vogel, who was a shoo-in for the ballot during the June primaries.
Vogel, with decades of experience in public office, had a surplus of local endorsements leading up to the election, including all members of city councils in Turlock, Ripon, Escalon and Manteca, as well as four Stanislaus County supervisors and Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, and was the Republican party’s favorite to win the 12th District’s seat.
Political rookie Flora emerged in second place behind Vogel following the primary election and never looked back, securing endorsements from Turlock Firefighters Local #2434, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen and State Sen. Anthony Cannella.
The race for the 12th Assembly District seat was believed to be the only instance where two members of the GOP faced each other in the general election for a seat in the California Legislature that is dominated by Democrats, and the two candidates came into Tuesday’s election with striking similarities — both are conservative Republican farmers and shared similar political priorities, which included water at the top of their agendas. The pair adamantly opposed the governor’s Twin Tunnels proposal, as well as the State Water Board’s plan to increase unimpeded river flows from tributaries of the San Joaquin River.
At their final candidate forum before the election, Flora emphasized the importance of protecting the area’s water and his desire to do so if elected.
“The State Water Board is a huge, huge problem for the economic success and continued success as a 12th District,” said Flora. “I want to really look into making sure that it’s absolutely necessary that bureaucracy is in place…we will fight that fight to no end because if we don’t have water in this district, the whole concept of the 12th District being an economic powerhouse through agriculture goes away.”
Now, it looks like Flora will have the chance to make that fight a reality.