In what some have characterized as the biggest surprise of election night, a 5-foot, 2-inch fireball emerged as the primary challenger in November to Republican incumbent Chad Mayes in California’s 42nd Assembly District.

She is DeniAntionette, “Deni,” Mazingo, a Democrat, from Hemet.

Not only did she best Gary Jeandon, Andrew Kotyuk and Carol A. Bouldin, she garnered more votes than Mayes himself.

With 147 of 147 precincts reporting, Mazingo,  in another  election night surprise, was the top vote-getter with 17,017 votes, or 38.70 percent. Mayes earned 141,274 votes, for 32.47 percent, according to the Riverside County Registrar of Voters.

Mazingo could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday morning about her surprise victory, but she initially announced her candidacy to Uken Report last year.

For more than 15 years, Manzingo, the biracial child of a French Jew father and an Ethiopian and Native American mother, worked as an attorney in the nation’s capital. She practiced family law, will and estate formation. Widowed, she has lived in Hemet since 2012.

“Whatever I have to say, for my client, to advocate for them, I will do,” Manzingo said in a telephone interview with Uken Report.  “So, they call me a bulldog. I’m little, I don’t holler, I don’t curse, I don’t yell. But I get my point across. I stand up for whomever it is I’m supposed to stand up for, and I will not back down. I am a Christian, and I believe in God. I believe if you stand firm, and if you stand with Him, then nothing and nobody can fight you. I think that describes me. Is that cool?”

The 59-year-old is running for state Assembly because she said Californians are neither being heard nor represented, specifically children, women and veterans, she said.

“The largest community of people on the street now is senior women,” she said. We’ve just been kicked to the curb. Because of the pay equity issue senior women cannot afford to live on their own, say if their spouse dies or their partner dies. Everything keeps increasing: food, medical expenses, and living expenses.”

She told of a Palm Desert woman she had met. Her husband had died, nine months later she just couldn’t handle it anymore. She locked the front door, chained the dog to the front door, and walked off.

“These women are being accosted in the street; they’re being raped, they’re being beaten,” Mazingo said. “They’re either made to be carriers of drugs or they put them on drugs, or else they got them prostituting themselves. I’m talking about senior women; we’re not talking about young kids. That is just appalling to me because that’s somebody’s parents, grandparents, or at the minimal, somebody’s child. That just really blows my mind, because that could be me one day.”

She is also concerned about children who max out of the foster care system with nowhere to go but the streets.

“We need to have some type of transition for these kids,” Mazingo said. “We’ve let them down once, now we’re letting them down again.

She also advocates for a better education system with smaller classroom sizes and special education for children who know English as a second language.

“They’re not getting the special education they need,” she said. “If they do, they’re being treated like second-class citizens. And then we have the issue of being safe here. A lot of our families are leaving our state because they feel like they’re not being safe, like they’re not being protected. These are just some of the things I’m running on, but mainly the children and the senior woman.”

It is not unusual or a surprise to find her on the streets of Hemet two to three times each week distributing blankets, food, clothes, and whatever is needed to help people. Her care and activism prompted Democrats of Hemet-San Jacinto and some other Democrat clubs in the desert and Twentynine Palms to encourage her to seek public office.

In 2016, state Sen, Mike Morrell named her Woman of the Year for Riverside County. It was no surprise to those who know her. She currently is the Third District Commissioner for the Riverside County Commission for Women.  It is group of diverse women from varying educations and social economic backgrounds that serve and advocate on behalf of the women in the Riverside County communities – and the opportunities, issues, and policies that affect women in the Riverside County area. It is a volunteer position.

While she has several political advisers, one of her closest, she said is Greg Rodriguez, who lost to Mayes in 2016. Rodriguez is the former district director for Congressman Raul Ruiz.

She has begun fundraising and said she expects her bid to cost in the neighborhood of $250,000.

As role models, she looks to Dr. Martin Luther King and former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.

“No matter what was thrown at them, they still stood tall, had grace, and continued to go forward,” Mazingo said. “No matter what was said about them, they could be called apes, or any other name people wanted to throw at them, but they still stood for the country. That’s what I want to be. That’s who I wanna be. That’s what I wanna be known as.”

The 42nd District represents the San Gorgonio Pass, most of Hemet, San Jacinto, Calimesa, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Palm Springs, Cabazon, Rancho Mirage and desert communities in San Bernardino County, including Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree. The 42nd District represents the San Gorgonio Pass, most of Hemet, San Jacinto, Calimesa, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Palm Springs, Cabazon, Rancho Mirage and desert communities in San Bernardino County, including Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree.