How an Assembly Candidate got to November without being on the Primary Ballot

How an Assembly candidate got to November without being on the primary ballot

Press Enterprise 

Ali Mazarei is running for Assembly – and now, he’s got the ballot spot to prove it.

Mazarei’s name wasn’t on the June 5 primary ballot for the 61st Assembly District. But because the Riverside Republican got the second-most votes as a write-in candidate, he will be listed with incumbent Assemblyman Jose Medina on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

The deadline to file papers to run for office in the primary was March 9. California allows “qualified write-in candidates” to run in the primary, but not in the general election unless they’re one of the top two vote-getters.

To qualify, a write-in candidate must fill out paperwork and collect nominating signatures from voters in the district in which he or she wants to run.

As the only candidate on the June 5 ballot, Medina, D-Riverside, got 90 percent of the primary vote.

The assemblyman, who has represented the district since 2012, is favored to win re-election in the 61st, which covers Moreno Valley, Perris and most of Riverside. Democrats in the district hold a 22 percentage point edge in voter registration.

But Mazarei, who sits on the Riverside County Republican Central Committee, isn’t discouraged. A businessman — he owns a Perris AM/PM service station among others —  said he thought about running in 2016, but, with two young children at home at the time, decided against it.

“I wasn’t even thinking about (running this year), to be honest with you,” he said recently. “Four weeks ago, I was like ‘Man, I can’t believe no one ran against Jose.”

Things changed, Mazarei said, when his wife started looking for homes outside California.

When he brought up the prospect of running, “Immediately, everybody got excited,” he said. “I called people in my network and they said ‘Yeah, we really need a business owner (representing us).”

Medina is never around in the district, said Mazarei, 48. He said when he first met with Medina, the assemblyman said he said no idea about business “‘so I’m just going to wing it.’”

A campaign spokesman called Mazarei’s claims “ludicrous.”

“Jose Medina has spent a lifetime devoted to the betterment of Riverside County and has delivered millions for local schools, the UC Riverside Medical Center, health care access, and job-training programs,” Josh Pulliam said. “All while Ali Mazarei has been spending his time as a Republican Party political hack.”

If elected, Mazarei said he would work to cut taxes and regulations to encourage businesses to expand. “People can spend their money better than government,” he said.

Freeway congestion can be cut by incentivizing local jobs and work-at-home jobs, Mazarei said. He also supports building more dams and reservoirs to store more water.

Mazarei opposes the high-speed rail project and said recent voter-approved ballot measures to reform the criminal justice system “made a mess. I’ve had shoplifters throw the ticket they get into the deputy’s face and go ‘Later’ and walk away.”