Neil Nisperos and Benjamin Demers, Staff Writers
Created: 01/22/2012 06:22:41 PM PST

For two Rancho Cucamonga businessmen, the road to victory on Election Day in November got a tad easier in the wake of Rep. Jerry Lewis’ retirement earlier this month.

But before being able to represent the newly drawn 40th Assembly District, Republican Mike Morrell and Democrat Russ Warner will have to get past each other.

Morrell may have a tad more name recognition as the assemblyman represents the 63rd District after being elected in November 2010. He has offices in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino and Redlands.

Warner though will be able to lean on his party holding a slight edge – 40 percent to 38 percent edge – over Republicans among registered voters in the 40th District, which extends from Rancho Cucamonga to part of the High Desert through San Bernardino and into Redlands.

“I look forward to a spirited campaign in 2012 between myself and incumbent Mike Morrell,” Warner said.

That Morrell and Warner will face off against each other is likely being greeted with a sense of relief by the candidates as well as their supporters.

Until Lewis, R-Redlands, retired Jan. 12, Morrell was expected to have his hands full against former state Senate GOP Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, in order to be elected to represent the 40th District.

Dutton, who has been a state lawmaker since 2002, decided last week that he would instead run for the 31st Congressional District.

“I think (we) were both relieved,” Morrell said about himself and Dutton. “A lot of people liked us both. I think the relief goes up and down the line.”

About a week ago, Warner decided to not run for the 31st District seat and set his sights on the 40th.

Warner would have faced an uphill battle in the 31st as several Democrats – Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, nonprofit founder Renea Wickman, educator Rita Ramirez-Dean and Justin Kim, a lawyer from Loma Linda – have expressed interest in running for the seat.

Rep. Gary Miller, R-Diamond Bar, also recently entered the fray in the 31st.

Warner said representatives from the state Democratic Party look at him as someone who will be able to work with Democrats as well as Republicans in Sacramento and do what’s best for California.

“Although Bob Dutton and I seldom agree on much politically, I recognize the senator’s ability to reach across party lines in the state Legislature and work beyond a rigid and extreme ideological agenda,” Warner said.

Warner’s platform on his campaign Website seems to indicate his willingness to be open to opinions not always echoed by his party. For example, he criticizes reckless spending by lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

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