Assemblyman Chad Mayes, I-Yucca Valley, took a sizable early lead Tuesday evening in the race to represent a chunk of the Inland Empire in the Assembly, gathering 63% of the vote compared to his Republican challenger’s 37%.

Mayes is attempting his first reelection to the 42nd Assembly District, which include parts of both Riverside and San Bernardino counties, since ditching the Republican Party last year. San Jacinto Mayor Andrew Kotyuk, a Republican, is looking to replace him.

If reelected to a fourth term, Mayes, 43, said in a recent interview that he plans to continue working toward easing the negative economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. He also listed lowering healthcare costs and the need to clear dead vegetation to mitigate the threat of wildfires on public lands as top goals.

Like Mayes, Kotyuk, 45, also pledged in a recent interview to fight for reducing wildfire risk on public lands and to battle to reopen the local economy. He also said he would work to spur job creation, combat homelessness and support law enforcement.

The 42nd Assembly District includes cities in the Banning Pass, much of the Coachella Valley and the eastern portion of San Bernardino County’s High Desert. The district is a historically Republican stronghold, although Democrats have been gaining ground in recent election cycles.

Mayes squeaked out a first-place finish in the March 3 top-two primary battle, securing 42,717 votes, or 35% of the total, over Kotyuk’s 40,893, or 33.5%, according to data from the California Secretary of State’s website. Democratic challenger DeniAntionette Mazingo finished with 38,492 votes, or 31.5% of the total.

Mayes and Kotyuk have faced off before. Mayes — a Republican at the time — fended off two challengers from his former party in the 2018 primary contest, including Kotyuk. During that election, Kotyuk blasted Mayes for crossing party lines to support Democrat-led cap-and-trade extension legislation, a move that cost Mayes his Republican leadership position in the Assembly.

Mayes has held the 42nd District seat since 2014, after serving for nearly a decade on the Yucca Valley Town Council, including two stints as mayor. Meanwhile, Kotyuk has served on the San Jacinto City Council for 10 years, and is now in his third year as mayor.

Mayes made national headlines last December when he defected from the GOP amid public criticism of Trump and the overall direction of the party in general. He now says that disconnecting himself from what he called the “team red, team blue” political dichotomy in Sacramento, where Democrats hold a veto-proof supermajority in both legislative houses, has drastically increased his productivity for the betterment of his constituents.

His opponent, who has voiced support for Trump, claims Mayes’ no party preference designation renders him ineffective in the Assembly, although Mayes says it’s actually the Republicans whose efforts tend to be fruitless. The Democrats simply have no interest in working with the other side, he said, noting, “They don’t need to.”

“As an independent I am not their enemy,” Mayes said of the Democrats. “I am somebody they see as working on behalf of my district.”

A U.S. Navy veteran, Kotyuk is no stranger to public service, or politics. In his capacity as a member of the San Jacinto City Council, Kotyuk serves on the Riverside County Transportation Commission.

In 2013 while at the RCTC, Kotyuk said he helped secure a $421 million federal loan to help pay for the $1.4 billion 91 Project, which added several new lanes to the artery. Kotyuk said that and other transportation projects he has participated in brought much needed jobs to the Inland Empire.

Kotyuk additionally serves on the Board of Directors of the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, where he was a former board chair. He was also a previous chairman of the Riverside Transit Authority Board of Directors.

Outside of politics, Kotyuk runs several companies that employ hundreds of people, he says, including SoCal Propane, a supplier of residential and commercial propane, and Alpha Wealth Management, a investment advisory firm.

More information about the Mayes campaign is available at www.chadmayes.com/.

The portal for Kotyuk’s campaign is kotyukforassembly.com/.

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