The Gerber Republican easily won election to the vacant 4th Senate District seat in a special contest held Tuesday. He led Democrat Mickey Harrington by double-digits, 66.5 percent to 33.5 percent, in early returns. The Associated Press called the contest for Nielsen about 10 p.m.
Nielsen, who spent the last four years representing the 2nd Assembly District, served as Senate GOP leader during an earlier stint in the state Legislature in the 1980s. He succeeds former Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, who stepped down ahead of his election to Congress. LaMalfa had hoped that his September resignation would allow his replacement to be elected in a primary consolidated with the November general election, avoiding the cost of a separate runoff vote. But Nielsen fell just below the more than 50 percent threshold needed to win outright in the special primary election.
Nielsen will be eligible for two full four-year terms in the Senate after filling out LaMalfa's remaining two years representing the safe Republican Northern California district, which covers all or part of a dozen counties.
Click here to see the updated election results.
PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, speaks at a 2010 forum in Sacramento. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.