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In the Inland Empire, the only judicial contest this Nov. 8 election is in Riverside County, where voters will decide between Gang and Homicide Prosecutor Amy Zois Barajas and Senior Deputy District Attorney Natalie Lough to join the Riverside Superior Court as a judge.

Voters will also take part in the state election to approve California Supreme Court Chief Justice candidate Patricia Guerrero.

Judicial retention on ballot

The ballot’s 15 remaining questions are for incumbent state judges seeking additional 12-year terms. Three of the judges are state Supreme Court Justices, and 12 are appellate justices.

No Court of Appeal Justice has ever lost a retention election, and only three state Supreme Justices have lost theirs since retention elections were established in 1934, according to a Judicial Council of California report. Those three Supreme Justices, Joseph Grodin, Cruz Reynoso and Rose Bird, lost in 1986.

Court of Appeal, Third District, Justice Coleman Blease came the closest to a loss in the last 32 years, winning the election 52-48% in 1994, by a difference of 13,000 votes.

State records show these elections usually land at 75% votes for retention. In the rare case that 50% of voters vote not to reelect a justice, the replacement would be appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Riverside judicial race

In Riverside, one seat was left undecided after the June election. Senior Deputy District Attorney Natalie Lough won 49.84% of the vote, falling 469 votes short of a majority victory. Amy Zois Barajas won 28% of the vote, coming in second and getting her into this run-off election. Attorney Richard Swanson received 22% of the vote.

Lough has worked a range of assignments from child molestation to death penalties cases in her 15 years at the district attorney’s office, she said during a candidate forum hosted by Follow Our Courts and Riverside City College in May.

For the past 10 years, she has been working on appellate cases, where she reviews errors made by sitting judicial officers.

She met her husband, another deputy district attorney, in the prosecutor’s office, and is raising two kids with him.

“I think (my work on the appellate division) makes (me) uniquely qualified, not because it gives me some kind of legal encyclopedia, but because it makes me realize what I don’t know,” Lough said at the forum.

Barajas has worked for the district attorney’s office since she joined the bar in 2005, according to her website. She has served as a line level trial prosecutor in the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit, Vehicle Homicide Unit, the Gang Unit, the Domestic Violence Unit and the Political Corruption Unit. She grew up in Riverside and graduated from Southwestern University School of Law in 2004.

Patricia Guerrero as chief justice

Guerrero grew up in Imperial County, and graduated with her law degree from Stanford Law School in 1997. She joined Latham & Watkins’ San Francisco Office, served a stint with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Attorney, and rejoined Latham & Watkins, where she finished a legal brief while on the way to the hospital to give birth. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her to San Diego Superior Court in 2013, and then to the California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, in 2017. Guerrero joined the state Supreme Court March 23.

Gov. Gavin Newsom nominated her to be the next Chief Justice of California Aug. 10, after Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced she would retire from the role after her term ends Jan. 2.

“Justice Guerrero has established herself as a widely respected jurist with a formidable intellect and command of the law and deep commitment to equal justice and public service,” said Newsom in a press release. 

Read the bios, endorsements and funding for the candidates by clicking on the dots by their photos.

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