Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt was trailing Moreno Valley Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez Wednesday in the race for the Fifth Supervisorial District — the only seat in contention on the Board of Supervisors.
In the June primary, the two candidates were separated by a fraction of a percent after Beaumont Mayor Lloyd White and attorney Denianonette Mazingo were left well behind in the final tally.
Early results posted by the county Wednesday showed the incumbent with 14,880 votes while Gutierrez led with 17,628 votes, though only a small percentage of votes had been tallied.
Gutierrez, a Democrat, 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, reducing homelessness, expanding health care opportunities, advancing youth programs and ensuring safe drinking water.
“The challenges Riverside County faces are serious, but they are no match for the creativity, generosity and strength of our residents,” the mayor said. “I’m running to tackle the homelessness crisis with urgency, help local businesses restore jobs, keep neighborhoods safe and improve transparency in local government.”
Gutierrez is an educator, currently at the college level, with prior experience teaching in the Moreno Valley Unified School District.
Hewitt was elected to the board in 2018 following a stint as mayor of Calimesa. A Libertarian who is also serving as chair of the board until the end of the year, he said in a campaign statement that his experience as a private sector contractor provided him with “a unique perspective to help (solve) our fiscal woes.”
“I know what it is like to tighten my belt, and then give generously to my employees, as times get tough and eventually rebound,” he said.
Hewitt counted among his accomplishments during the last four years as Fifth District supervisor efforts to expand the Moreno Valley (60) Freeway through the Badlands, construct “safe routes to school” and secure improvements on the Ramona Expressway.
“I will continue to build much needed infrastructure, solidify public safety and support the fiscal health of our community,” Hewitt said. “In this way, we can promise a pristine county for our children and grandchildren for years to come.”
The incumbent, who was among candidates for governor in the unsuccessful recall election of September 2021, 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.
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 adopted, but in a significantly watered-down form that Hewitt opposed and resulted in virtually no change from the status quo.
Supervisors Manuel Perez and Chuck Washington have both publicly declared their support for Gutierrez.
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.