With the Associated Press calling California’s 41st congressional district race for Congressman Ken Calvert (R-Corona) and incumbent declaring victory, Democrats are now raising money for a recount fund on behalf of the gay candidate Will Rollins.
On Tuesday night, Rollins trailed Calvert, 69, a conservative Trump supporter, by 6,505 votes. Riverside County election officials said they still have about 67,000 ballots to count and have received about 50,000 additional ballots in a timely manner since Nov. 9.
Still, the AP declared Calvert the winner Monday night. Shortly after, he released a statement thanking the voters of Riverside County for electing him to his 16th term in Congress.
“As I have said throughout this campaign, I will work to take our country in a different direction from the path it is on and advocate for policies that will curb inflation, lower energy prices in increasing American production, will solve our border crisis and reduce crime,” Calvert said. “This election demonstrated that voters in Riverside County are more interested in people serious about solving our problems than in personal politics. Ultimately, it’s clear that voters sent a strong message in dismissing the gutter politics of lies and personal attacks from an extremist liberal outcast.
On Tuesday morning, Rollins, 38, a former federal prosecutor, acknowledged in a tweet that the latest vote count was not the news “we were hoping for. We know we’re facing a tough climb, but I was adamant that the democratic process must take place. With many votes still pending, the next ballot released tonight will provide more information on the state of this race.”
He told supporters he would have more to say after election officials released another update to the vote tally around 6 p.m. Tuesday. Still, in the afternoon, South Bay congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) announced she was raising funds to help defray the cost of a recount in Rollins’ race.
“The Will Rollins race is gearing up for a recount because mad MAGA Republicans aren’t backing down with a loss,” Lofgren wrote in his emailed pitch for $10 donations, which would be split between Rollins and nine other California House candidates who ran up close. November 8 elections. “The best way to prepare for a recount is to prepare ahead of time. Will’s team is putting together the best legal team possible to win this fight, but they can’t do it without your help.”
Lofgren added, “This midterm election is far from over.”
Rollin’s campaign declined to comment Tuesday afternoon on whether it plans to seek a recount in the race.
As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a Nov. 14 online article, Rollins and Democratic officials, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), had asked voters in California’s congressional district South to verify that their mail-in ballots had not been rejected due to problems with their signature or a missing date.
The process is called “ballot hardening”. Affected voters have 30 days to submit a correction affidavit in order for their vote to count.
“This is what the process of correcting a minor discrepancy on a ballot is called. If you are an eligible voter and there is a problem with the verification of your ballot, you can always solve it!” Rollins tweeted on Nov. 14.
Pelosi had asked people to sign up to make phone calls or canvass in targeted districts in several states where Democratic House candidates have failed via the
“County election officials have identified thousands of voters who either did not sign their ballot or whose signature does not match their voter registration record – and who can ‘cure’ their ballot. We have phone banks and cold calling to reach them – and WE NEED YOUR HELP,” Pelosi wrote in an email Monday to his supporters. “Please register to reach voters who need to heal their ballots to ensure every vote is counted as cast.”
Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, told BAR on Monday afternoon that her organization remained hopeful that Rollins could secure a victory in the new congressional district that includes the LGBTQ retreat and tourist mecca of Palm. Springs. But Parker also acknowledged, “it’s a red seat” so a Rollins win “isn’t easy but still possible.”
Speaking to BAR by phone the day after the November 8 general election, Rollins predicted his race would be “closed”. But he expressed optimism that his top spot on election night would ultimately stand as extra ballots are counted as Calvert received just 48% of the vote in their June primary race.
He had bet on LGBTQ voters in the Palm Springs area to help him put himself in first place against Calvert, who has repeatedly voted against LGBTQ rights over the past two decades. It wasn’t until this year, running against a gay candidate in a more purple district, that Calvert voted for marriage equality.
Since last week, Calvert had insisted he would be declared the winner once all the ballots were counted. In his statement Monday night, he acknowledged that he would represent another House district in Congress.
“It’s clear that this district, like our country, is tightly divided on a partisan basis. I’m proud of my track record for Riverside County working in a bipartisan fashion throughout my career,” Calvert said. “As I represent a new district with new communities, I remain committed to working toward solutions with anyone interested in meeting the needs of our region.”
Rollins is the fifth West Coast House contestant to fail in his races. In Oregon, former lesbian Santa Clara City Council member Jamie McLeod-Skinner conceded her contest for the 5th congressional district on Sunday. She beat moderate Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Canby) in their June primary race, but lost in the general election to Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer.
Three Los Angeles-area house candidates had attempted to oust the incumbents. Gay progressive Derek Marshall lost to Congressman Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) in the state’s 23rd congressional district.
In the CD 30 race, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Los Angeles) defeated non-binary drag queen G “Maebe A. Girl” Pudlo. Meanwhile, progressive attorney David Kim trails Congressman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) in CD 34 by 4,040 votes.
The Golden State congressional delegation doubled in members this year. Gay Congressman Mark Takano (D-Riverside) was easily re-elected to a fifth two-year term in the 39th congressional district.
Joining him on Capitol Hill is gay Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, elected from the 42nd congressional district along the Los Angeles County coast. From Lima, Peru, Garcia is the first openly gay immigrant to serve in Congress and was in Washington DC this week for the orientation of new members of Congress.
This article will be updated as new ballots arrive.
Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going during these difficult times. To support local, independent and LGBTQ journalism, consider become a member of the BAR.