A pair of special elections that ended with Sam Blakeslee going to the state Senate will cost county taxpayers $750,000, county Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald says.
Blakeslee, a Republican, has introduced two bills to get the money back from the state. However, his office says, reimbursement legislation has been stalled by Democratic leaders in budget deliberations, “when, as you know, hostages are taken and used as leverage to extract concessions.”
Democrats have accused Blakeslee of favoring the midsummer election because it would suppress voter turnout and give him a better chance to win.
Blakeslee’s opponents, including Democrat John Laird, sought in vain to have the second of the two special elections coincide with the Nov. 2 general election, which would have saved counties hundreds of thousands of dollars.
When Blakeslee was elected Aug. 17, it was the final step in a lengthy process that began in 2009 with John Garamendi resigning his position as lieutenant governor in order to run for a vacant congressional seat.
Central Coast state Sen. Abel Maldonado lobbied for and received Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s nod to become lieutenant governor.
When Maldonado’s 15th District state Senate seat opened up in May, Blakeslee, then a termed-out Assemblyman, entered the race. He had three opponents.
The special election required both a primary and a runoff election. The latter could have been timed to coincide with the Nov. 2 general election, but Schwarzenegger chose the Aug. 17 date, which infuriated short-of-money boards of supervisors in the five counties that contain all or part of the Senate district.
Now, the bill has been tallied, according to County Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald. The $750,000 owed locally does not include the costs for Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Monterey counties, estimated to be in the millions of dollars.
Rodewald said she was able to save money — perhaps as much as $250,000 — by reducing the number of polling places, hiring fewer precinct workers and cutting down on printing and mailing costs.
Rodewald will present the information to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, at which time she also will ask supervisors to officially “declare” the election results.
Blakeslee won the districtwide vote 48 percent to Laird’s 44 percent. In San Luis Obispo County, however, Blakeslee won by 56 percent to 36 percent.
The turnout in San Luis Obispo County was higher than in the other counties, Rodewald wrote — 43.4 percent compared to a district-wide figure of 39.43 percent.
With only two in five voters casting ballots district-wide, and Blakeslee taking fewer than half of those votes, he went to the Senate with the votes of less than one in five of the district’s registered voters.
Rodewald said the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials is lobbying “for full reimbursement for these elections as soon as possible.” They have been joined by the California Association of Counties.