Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt found himself in a tight battle Tuesday evening in his bid for reelection, with early returns putting him in second place in the four-person contest behind Moreno Valley Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez.
Gutierrez had a roughly 300-vote lead over Hewitt in the race as returns trickled in, with both likely heading for the November runoff. Gutierrez held 34% of the vote, compared to Hewitt’s 33%.
Hewitt is seeking a second term on the board, to which he was first elected in 2018, after a stint as mayor of Calimesa.
Also in the race were Beaumont Mayor Lloyd White and attorney Denianonette Mazingo.
The incumbent, who is also serving as chair of the board until the end of the year, said in a campaign statement that “the trials I’ve faced while leading this county have shaped me forever. In times of uncertainty, you can always depend on me to lead from the front.”
Hewitt, who was among candidates for governor in the recall election last September, was an outspoken opponent of the coronavirus public health lockdowns, and after hearing from impacted residents and business owners about the hardships created by the mandates, he was the lone voice in favor of the county outright rejecting them.
However, he later modified his position and instead advocated for a piecemeal approach to removing the county from the state’s controlling measures, resulting in a proposal in September 2020 for the county to establish an independent “Reopening Plan.” Under the concept, the county’s Executive Office would have established criteria different from the governor’s color-coded tier system then in place — all aimed at expediting a return to normal commerce.
The plan was tentatively adopted, but in a significantly watered-down form that Hewitt opposed and resulted in virtually no change from the status quo.
“Every day, I have pushed to elevate our county,” the supervisor said. “I do this to leave a better county for our grandchildren.”
Gutierrez, a favorite of the county’s Democratic Party establishment, cited his work on homeless reduction programs, municipal beautification and supporting job creation as accomplishments since he was first elected Moreno Valley’s mayor in 2016.
“I’m running for supervisor to serve as the honest, ethical and effective leader Riverside County needs,” he said in a campaign statement. “I’ll listen to residents and work every day to improve and protect our quality of life.”
His objectives include improving 911 response times, expanding healthcare opportunities, expanding youth programs and ensuring safe drinking water.
According to White, unlike most politicians, he has a record of keeping his promises, and he would be a reformer on the board.
In a campaign statement, he touted his accomplishments in lowering municipal taxes and fees, as well as helping attract new business to Beaumont, generating “1,000 new good-paying jobs.”
“As your Riverside County supervisor, I will improve our roads and highways to reduce traffic congestion, strengthen public safety, reduce homelessness, and make Riverside County a more affordable place to live,” the mayor said.
Mazingo pointed to the need for good stewardship over local resources — and county taxpayers’ money.
She said the board should be focused on “realistic budgets” and concentrate on “sustainable plans for future funding and reliable sources of revenue.”
The candidate said she would “make sure that your hard-earned dollars are collected and allocated to those who are best suited,” which goes toward “hiring persons and awarding contracts to the best-suited for the task at hand.”
“I will continue the fight for unity in our county, resulting (in) equal opportunity, fair treatment, building from the bottom up for the benefit of everyone,” she said.
In the county’s Fourth District, Supervisor Manuel Perez ran without opposition in the primary, as did Supervisor Karen Spiegel in the county’s Second District.