Two Republicans who have never before held an elected office will battle in today’s primary election for their party’s nomination for the 64th Assembly District seat being vacated by termed-out incumbent John Benoit.
The GOP-leaning district includes Coachella Valley cities such as Palm Desert, Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage as well as Moreno Valley and Riverside and small parts of San Bernardino County down to the San Diego County line.
Republican candidates Brian Nestande, 44, of Palm Desert, and Kelly McCarty, 44, of Ontario, have never held public office. Nestande, who has been involved in politics for years, was a former chief of staff for the late Rep. Sonny Bono, and then for Bono’s widow, Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs.
He runs a public/government relations firm based in Palm Desert and touts himself as a candidate with years of experience working in politics.
Nestande has endorsements from former Govs. Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian, Riverside County Supervisors Marion Ashley and Roy Wilson, Bono Mack and Benoit, who is running for the 37th Senate District seat.
The Desert Sun and The Press-Enterprise have also endorsed Nestande.
McCarty, on the other hand, is a small business owner who runs an Ontario-based auto collision shop and touts support from other small business owners.
She also has endorsements from Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City; former Assemblyman Russ Bogh, R-Beaumont; Riverside City Council members Chris MacArthur and Mike Gardner and the California Firefighters and Riverside Sheriff’s associations.
The only Democratic candidate is a write-in candidate, Paul Rasso, a 42-year-old electronics technician for the Colton Joint Unified School District.
Rasso ran on the Democratic ticket for the seat in 2006 and was defeated by Benoit.
He has been endorsed by Woody Hughes, president of the Riverside County Chapter of the NAACP and the Riverside/San Bernardino AFL-CIO.
The majority of the district’s voters live in the Riverside area, but candidates have been campaigning heavily in the Coachella Valley because its voters typically head to the polls in large numbers.