Politics & Government

Jordan Cunningham defeats Dawn Ortiz-Legg in Assembly race

California State Assembly candidate Jordan Cunningham handily defeated Democratic opponent Dawn Ortiz-Legg Tuesday in the bitter and costly race to replace outgoing two-term 35th District state Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian.

With all 253 precincts reporting as of 12:50 a.m. Wednesday, Cunningham led Ortiz-Legg 54 to 45 percent.

As the final votes were being released, Cunningham told The Tribune he was “excited, happy and honored” to have won voters’ trust.

Cunningham said he looked forward to hitting the ground running and focusing on improving California’s small business climate and public safety. The latter will be affected by the “mixed bag” of voter-approved ballot initiatives such as Prop. 57, which will lead to shorter prison sentences for some California inmates, and Prop. 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use, he noted.

Cunningham said he wanted to get started right away in the state Legislature to establish guidelines for roadside tests for marijuana intoxication, for example.

“How can we keep our roads safe now that we have this major policy change?” Cunningham said.

Asked how he felt following his victory, Cunningham said: “It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

Following the release of initial vote-by-mail results and a few precincts, Ortiz-Legg acknowledged that her path to victory was narrow.

“I’m thrilled with the fact that we’ve had a fantastic campaign and from the beginning, all I ever wanted was for us to have a discussion about who we want representing us in Sacramento,” Ortiz-Legg told The Tribune. “I wanted this to be a race as opposed to just handing (the seat) over.”

Ortiz-Legg said it was an honor to run and thanked her supporters.

“I may be the only person in America that wasn’t ready for the election to be over,” she said. “This has been very inspirational for me.”

The 35th District encompasses San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties and has historically leaned Republican.

Jordan Cunningham, 38, previously worked as a San Luis Obispo County deputy district attorney before establishing the Templeton-based Cunningham Law Group, and he sits on the Templeton Unified School District Board of Trustees.

Ortiz-Legg, 56, is a San Luis Obispo-based public affairs and construction liaison with First Solar and NRG Energy.

More than $1.5 million flowed into the Assembly race in the final weeks of the election, with Ortiz-Legg raising nearly $1 million from the California Democratic Party alone, and Cunningham raising nearly a half-million dollars from the Republican Central Committee of San Luis Obispo County, companies such as Chevron and Exxon Mobil and PACs for the California Independent Petroleum Association and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.