Election Day on Tuesday: Vote for State Senator in District 40

Sample ballot for State Senator

Sample ballot for State Senator (via California Secretary of State).

Tuesday marks the special primary election for a seat in the State Senate.

Voters will eventually replace Juan Vargas, who resigned from District 40 after winning a seat in the U.S. House.

Hector Raul Gastelum, Xanthi Gionis, Anna Nevenic and Ben Hueso are on the ballot.

This election includes voters in parts or all of Blythe, Cathedral City, Coachella, Indio, Mecca and Thousand Palms.

Nearly 45,000 vote-by-mail ballots have been issued in Riverside County. More than 9,500 — or 21.5 percent of those — have been returned, the Registrar of Voters said Monday.

Voters will be able to cast ballots at 21 polling places.

To find your assigned polling place, visit the Registrar of Voters office website at or call (951) 486-7200.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. through 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Manuel Perez endorses colleague for Juan Vargas’ seat

Democrat Juan Vargas hasn’t vacated his state Senate seat yet, but that isn’t stopping some of his Capitol colleagues from lining up early endorsements.

The California Latino Legislative Caucus this week endorsed Assemblyman Ben Hueso, a San Diego Democrat, in the soon-to-be called special election for the 40th Senate District.

The caucus also endorsed Assemblywoman Norma Torres, a Pomona Democrat, for the Senate seat being vacated by Gloria Negrete McLeod.

“During their tenures in the state Assembly, Assemblymembers Hueso and Torres have been effective advocates for working families,” Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, a Coachella Democrat who is vice-chair of the caucus, said in a statement.

“While it will be hard to fill the shoes of Senators Negrete McLeod and Vargas, I believe Hueso and Torres are up to the challenge and will serve our state well in the Senate.”

Vargas represents a district that spans San Diego, Riverside and Imperial counties, including parts of the Coachella Valley. Last month, he was elected to a San Diego-based congressional seat.

Vargas will have to vacate his current Senate seat before he is sworn into his new office, a ceremony that is scheduled for early January in Washington.

After that, Gov. Jerry Brown will set the schedule for a special election so someone can finish Vargas’ term, which runs through 2014.

Vargas addresses used car sales

State Sen. Juan Vargas is holding a press conference on the Capitol steps today to discuss the Used Car Safety Act of 2012.

Senate Bill 990 tries to help people who buy used cars by making car dealers obtain a vehicle history report from a commercial data provider as well as the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System.  Dealers who don’t follow the revised vehicle code would be committing a crime, according to the bill.

If the bill doesn’t pass by July 1 — when some related legislative changes kick in — Vargas’ office said “used car buyers will be at a heightened risk when purchasing a used vehicle with undisclosed damages.”

Today’s press event starts at 10:30 a.m. in Sacramento and will include representatives from several chambers of commerce and business groups.

The bill will be the subject of a legislative hearing Tuesday when the Senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee meets.

Vargas is a San Diego Democrat who represents parts of the Coachella Valley.

DHS city manager helps Ducheny raise money

Former State Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny is using her Coachella Valley connections for at least two fundraisers next week.

Ducheny, who is running for a congressional district that spans San Diego and Imperial counties, will have a fundraiser Tuesday at the Palm Desert home of former Assemblywoman Julie Bornstein.

On Wednesday, Desert Hot Springs City Manager Rick Daniels is hosting a similar event for Ducheny’s campaign.

Usually, city managers do their best to keep out of the political arena. After all, these elected leaders can have an influence over their daily jobs.

Daniels and Ducheny have known each other for more than a decade, and in their previous jobs, worked together on Salton Sea restoration efforts.

Daniels said he didn’t see anything wrong with hosting a fundraiser for a candidate who is outside of the Coachella Valley. The event, Daniels noted, is being organized on his personal time and doesn’t involve city business or his official gig.

“The (congressional) district’s far reaches include a portion of the Salton Sea to which I have a strong personal commitment and will steadfastly use my personal energy to work for it’s restoration,” Daniels told The Desert Sun by email.

“I would hope any impression would be that I stand up for people that support the Salton Sea, economic development, and can work well with others.”

Ducheny will face one of the valley’s current leaders – Democratic Sen. Juan Vargas of San Diego – in the congressional race.

Vargas vs. Ducheny?

Voters last year picked Sen. Juan Vargas to replace Sen. Denise Ducheny after term limits ended her run in the Capitol.

Next year, voters may be asked to choose between the two Democrats.

Ducheny told the San Diego Union-Tribune that she’s open to running for the same congressional seat that Vargas is eyeing.

If preliminary redistricting maps hold true, the congressional district boundaries would include part of San Diego and run along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The congressional district, which does not include the Coachella Valley, is expected to be an incumbent-free campaign as Rep. Bob Filner plans to run for San Diego mayor.

Notably, Ducheny didn’t want Vargas to succeed her in the 40th Senate district, which includes part of the Coachella Valley. She had endorsed then-Assemblywoman Mary Salas, who lost to Vargas after a tough Democratic primary campaign.

Local connections

The Sacramento Bee published an interesting story today about a nonprofit group controlled by the Latino Legislative Caucus.

The newspaper found the caucus stopped releasing who donates to the nonprofit, raising questions about whether those donors are buying influence to lawmakers.

The Coachella Valley has a few local ties to the story:

– The Bee reports “many of the biggest checks came from powerful Capitol players,” including the desert’s own Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

– The desert’s two Democratic lawmakers – Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez and Sen. Juan Vargas – are members of the caucus.

You can read the Bee story here.