Special Election in Rural Northern California Assembly Features 2 Farmers of Opposing Parties

The California State Assembly casts votes Sept. 12, 2019, at the state Capitol in Sacramento.(Credit: Robert Gourley/Los Angeles Times)

The California State Assembly casts votes Sept. 12, 2019, at the state Capitol in Sacramento.(Credit: Robert Gourley/Los Angeles Times)

A Republican attempting to join her husband in California’s Legislature is pitted against a Democratic opponent in a special election Tuesday to fill a vacant Assembly seat in a sprawling district in the northeastern section of the state.

Republican Megan Dahle and Democrat Elizabeth Betancourt are each trying to succeed Brian Dahle, a Republican who represented District 1 until he won a special state Senate election in June. They are the top two vote-getters from a special primary election in August.

Dahle and her husband have a wheat farm and a related seed grain transport business in Bieber. Betancourt is a farmer, small business owner and rural advocate in Shasta County.

They’re running in a rural district that is bigger than West Virginia, stretching from suburban Sacramento to the state’s northeastern corner and covering all or parts of nine counties. The district’s registered voters are 40% Republicans and 28% Democrats, with another 22% having no party preference.

Betancourt reported raising and spending more than $100,000 on the campaign. She had outside support in the form of a $1,700 campaign mailer from the Democratic Central Committee of Siskiyou County.

Dahle raised and spent more than triple that amount and benefited from more than $30,000 in outside spending on radio advertising and telephone calls by a group representing correctional officers and real estate agents.

For a time it appeared that wildfires and preventive power outages to guard against utility equipment sparking fires could disrupt the election but neither was a factor Tuesday. Secretary of State Alex Padilla worked with county elections officials and electric utilities to make sure voting could occur if there was a blackout or significant wildfires.

It’s the most dangerous time of the year for fires and Padilla urged county elections officials throughout the state to have up-to-date contingency plans and utilities have a responsibility to work with elections officials to make sure voters are not disenfranchised because of outages.

His office has a webpage devoted to procedures and guidelines for voting in a state of emergency or natural disaster. Among other things, it advises officials to be ready to move their operations if necessary, or use flashlights, generators and backup voting materials.

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