Nielsen easily wins state Senate runoff; turnout low
• Nielsen — 87,738 votes, 66.6 percent
• Harrington — 43,903 votes, 33.4 percent
• Nielsen — 1,520 votes, 75.6 percent
• Harrington — 491 votes, 24.4 percent
Tuesday was like any other night in Colusa County — very few surprises to upset the routine of the typically routine nature of farming communities.
And that included the special state Senate election, which inspired only 26 percent of the county's eligible voters to cast a ballot.
As expected, former senator turned Assemblyman Jim Nielsen is back being a senator, winning 66.6 percent of the vote in the newly drawn 4th District, the Secretary of State's election division reported.
Nielsen, R-Gerber, had 87,738 votes to Democrat Michael "Mickey" Harrington's 43,903, the state reported.
In Colusa County, Nielsen collected 1,520 votes, or 75.6 percent of the 2,011 ballots cast, the county Elections Office reported.
Harrington received 491 votes, according to unofficial results.
The results are unofficial until the final canvass and certification by the Board of Supervisors.
Nielsen was sworn-in Thursday by Associate Justice George Nicholson of the 3rd District Court of Appeal.
"It is a great honor and privilege to serve again," Nielsen said in a statement.
"Serving the citizens of the North State has been and continues to be my priority. I will carry on my work to push for a state government that serves the people rather than itself and a business-friendly economy."
Nielsen, 68, was elected to the state Senate in 1978, then out of Yolo County, where he still owns a home. He won re-election in 1982 and 1986, and served as Republican leader in the Senate from 1983 until 1987.
He lost to current US Rep. Mike Thompson in a close election in 1990, and was appointed to the Board of Parole and Prison Terms in 1992 and served as its chairman from 1993 until 2000.
He returned the the Legislature in 2008 as an assemblyman, a position that raised issues about his actual residency.
The courts ruled his Gerber home was his legal residence, and later then-Attorney General Jerry Brown determined on appeal that there was no evidence to warrant further investigation.
Nielsen won re-election to the Assembly in 2010, but opted not to run for what would have been a third and final two-year term this past calendar year.
Knowing Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, the incumbent and a close friend, intended to seek a seat in the House of Representatives, Nielsen decided to return to the Senate.
He was facing what was certain to be a tough campaign against Assemblyman Dan Logue when the Loma Rica Republican, who also was ru ning for re-election in the Assembly, decided to drop out of the Senate race.
Nielsen and Harrington were the top two vote-getters in the special primary election that was consolidated with the general election on Nov. 6.
Nielsen came up just shy of the 50 percent-plus-one majority that would have eliminated the need for the run-off.
The district includes all or parts of Colusa, Glenn, Tehama, Butte, Del Norte, Nevada, Placer, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sutter, Trinity and Yuba counties.
The runoff election cost the 12 North State counties about $1 million. The cost to Colusa County is $30,000 to $35,000, the Elections Office stated.
The election has sparked new interest in asking the state Legislature to make similar single-issue runoff elections a vote-by-mail only election.
However, some election offices have indicated there really would be no savings after the postage and other related expenses are factored.
Colusa County Clerk-Recorder Kathleen Moran said she believes the decision should be left up to each county.
"I think it would be nice to let the counties have that option because they are the ones who really know what the costs are to put on a countywide election," Moran said.
She said it might work well in Colusa County.
However, a mail-in election would not have been possible in this case because the initial primary of the special election was consolidated with the general election and the law requires the same kind of election be conducted for the runoff.
Still, Moran believes the idea has merit if the final decision is left up to each county to determine what is best use of resources, and more importantly in her mind, which would result in more people voting.