Braulio Peralta went to his polling station on the upper floor of the Watsonville Civic Plaza Tuesday, casting his ballot for Santa Cruz County Supervisor, California State Assembly and a host of local issues.
With the general election months away and few compelling issues on the ballot, Peralta was among a small showing of voters who showed up for the primary election.
Peralta, whose family owns a machine shop in Watsonville, declined to say which county supervisor candidate got his vote, but said his decision was based on the candidate’s vow to help protect the rights of small businesses.
“Right now small businesses are hurting,” he said. “And they’re what keep us going.”
Daniel Beckett, who described himself during his campaign as a small business owner, was trailing opponent Zach Friend for the Santa Cruz County Supervisor Second District seat by nearly 40 percent.
At the polling station at MacQuiddy Elementary School, only 21 people had come to vote as of 1:25 p.m., a small number compared to the 739 in the precinct, said elections inspector Judy Lazenby.
“I would have thought it would have been more,” she said.
But Lazenby pointed out that increasing numbers of voters are choosing to forego the trip to their polling stations to vote by mail.
According to San Francisco-based Field Poll, some 55 percent of California voters were expected to mail in their ballot.
Elections inspector Tony Gregorio said that only 25 people had voted at his station at Landmark Elementary.
Gregorio said the low voter turnout might also be attributed to the fact that primary elections traditionally fail to garner the interest of presidential elections.
The Field Poll predicted that no more than 6 million voters would turn out for the election, just 35 of those registered in California.
That’s a sharp decline from the 2008 presidential primary, which brought in just fewer than 57 percent of California's voters. Tuesday's low was expected to surpass the previous record in 1996, when just 42 percent voted.
Voters were choosing members of Congress, Assembly and the Senate, most of which boasted strong incumbents.
Part of the reason for the low turnout is the fact that there was no real contest in the presidential Democratic primary, and that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is the expected GOP candidate for November.
Sen. Diane Feinstein was facing no real competition from either Democrats or Republicans, despite facing 23 challengers from a variety of political persuasions. Early returns showed Feinstein with a little more than 50 percent of the vote, with her nearest competitor Republican Elizabeth Emken with just 12 percent.
Santa Cruz County Supervisor Mark Stone, who was running for the State Assembly 29th District seat was far ahead of his two opponents, while former Watsonville mayor Luis Alejo, who was facing a challenge from Republican Robert Bernosky, was showing nearly 59 percent of the vote statewide, and 63 percent in Santa Cruz County.
“I’m pretty thrilled to get such strong early returns,” Alejo said. “It’s a testament of working hard not taking anything for granted.”
Alejo also said he was thankful to the residents of Watsonville.
“I want to make the people of my hometown proud and let them know they have a champion in Sacramento,” he said.
U.S. Congressman Sam Farr, who was facing challenges from seven candidates, was far ahead with 70 percent of the vote.
Assemblyman Bill Monning, who was facing off against Republican Larry Beaman for the 17th District Senate seat, was slightly ahead with 57 percent of the vote.
The primary was providing the first statewide run on a top-two voting system and newly redrawn legislative and congressional districts.
Some voters were hopeful that the new top-two system will deliver more competitive contests and more moderate candidates even as they were confronted with a longer, more complicated ballot. In some cases, candidates of the same party are vying to meet again in November.
The Associated Press Contributed to this report.
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