RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A Riverside County assemblywoman and a Board of Education member will know today who’s ahead in the special election to fill an open state Senate seat.

The vote-by-mail election for the 28th Senate District seat was called last fall, and a total of five candidates entered the race, culminating in Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, and county Board of Education member Elizabeth Romero netting the highest number of votes in the March 3 primary.

Gov. Gavin Newsom  issued an executive order two weeks later directing that the special election involving the two candidates be conducted exclusively by absentee ballot as part of state’s coronavirus mitigation effort.

To date, the county Office of the Registrar of Voters has received roughly 160,000 ballots for tabulation. The initial results will be posted today.

Former Sen. Jeff Stone resigned his position Nov. 1 to take the reins as the Trump administration’s western regional director for the U.S. Department of Labor, leaving the 28th District without a senator.

Melendez, who has represented the 67th Assembly District since 2012, is standing on her anti-tax record, public safety advocacy and pro-job growth positions in campaign literature.

The U.S. Navy veteran and mother of five has said that if elected, she will seek improvements to the state’s water storage infrastructure and will “stand up to special interests to protect small businesses and push for more good paying jobs.”

Melendez has been a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump and a frequent critic of Newsom, particularly during the coronavirus state of emergency, saying in one recent tweet that the governor is “ruling by fiat” through some of the unilateral directives he has issued.

According to Romero’s campaign, healthcare access and higher education opportunities will be among her top priorities if elected.

She has vowed to “bring emerging job sectors to Riverside County, including clean energy, healthcare and advanced manufacturing high-wage jobs that provide healthcare benefits and retirement security.”

The candidate points to her experience going back to 2006 working in executive capacities, including positions on the staffs of late county Supervisors Roy Wilson and John Benoit, as preparing her for the Legislature.

Her supporters include Board of Supervisors Chairman Manuel Perez and California Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

The last special election for state Senate in Riverside County occurred in 2010, when Benoit vacated his 37th Senate District seat to serve on the Board of Supervisors, representing the Fourth District.

The 37th District was redrawn after the 2010 Census, and much of it was incorporated into what is now the 28th District, stretching from the eastern Coachella Valley to the Temecula Valley.