Politics

With California Race in Doubt, Jones Shows Up for Orientation

7th District race still not called with more than 90,000 votes left to count

Republican Scott Jones trails Rep. Ami Bera by 2,583 votes in California’s 7th District race. (Courtesy Sheriff Scott Jones for U.S. Congress)

Sometimes you need to go through what Corporate America calls the “onboarding process” even before you know whether you got the job.

Republican Scott Jones was at the orientation for newly elected House members Monday, even though he doesn’t yet know if he defeated Democratic Rep. Ami Bera in California’s 7th District.

As of press time Monday, Jones, the sheriff of Sacramento County, trailed Bera by 2,583 votes out of a total of more than 205,000 total votes cast.

“There’s 96,000 votes left to count and the next update is going to be Wednesday. So I was asked to come in anticipation,” he said as he arrived at the Capitol Hill Hotel for the new member orientation.

Alice Jarboe, Sacramento County’s assistant registrar of voters, said Monday that for the entire county there are close to 195,000 ballots still to be processed. The 7th District covers about half the county. She described voter turnout as “huge.”

Jones said it was hard to predict the outcome. He said early absentee votes tended to be for Bera, while in-person voting on Election Day tended to favor him.

“It’s just going to depend on whether the votes fall more like voting day, or more like early absentees,” he said. “Believe me, no one wants to know more than me.”

Barb Solish, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said, “There are still votes left to count and we need to let the staff at the registrar do their work. We are confident that at the end of the day, once all votes are counted, Dr. Bera will return to Congress.”

One focus of the race was whether Bera knew about the illegal campaign contributions his father, Babulal Bera, pleaded guilty to having arranged in his previous runs for Congress in 2010 and 2012. Bera denied any knowledge of his father’s illegal campaign funding scheme.

But Jones said Monday that the election was about larger issues than the elder Bera’s campaign finance violations. “I think it was about the economy and about people feeling safe, or not feeling safe,” he said. “I think those probably played a more paramount role than any of the other personal factors.”

As for President-elect Donald Trump, Jones said, “I kind of stepped aside” from backing Trump after the release of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump was heard making crude remarks about his sexual advances toward women. “But you know, he’s our president,” he said. “So regardless, I’m focused on my race and certainly there’s going to need to be a strong Congress.”

Asked about potential areas of agreement between him and Trump, Jones noted, “I got into this because of certain things that happened back in my district that started with an officer being killed by someone who was here illegally. So those issues are very important for me to work on.”

Jones was referring to the 2014 killings of one of his deputies, Danny Oliver, and a Placer County sheriff’s deputy.

Luis Enriquez Bracamontes, who has been charged in the killings, has not yet stood trial. The Sacramento Bee reported that his attorneys have until Jan. 17 to file a motion for a change of venue for the trial.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.