Election 2010: Gioia leading in race for County Supe
on June 8, 2010
Many of the local elections in Tuesday’s direct primary vote were still too close to call as of 9 p.m., but at least one county seat appears safe for the incumbent.
A confident John Gioia thanked supporters, including Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus and city councilmen Jeff Ritterman and Tom Butt, at an election-night party Tuesday for their work, as early results favored the 12-year incumbent over political newcomer and Richmond native Mister Phillips in their battle for the District 1 County Supervisor seat.
Early results had Gioia leading Phillips 79 percent to 20 percent, with 23 of 104 precincts reporting. The early returns are largely affected by votes made prior to Tuesday – mostly mail-in and absentee ballots. Full results will likely be announced late Tuesday night or early Wednesday, at www.cocovote.us.
“I felt optimistic,” Gioia told the crowd at Salute Restaurant in Richmond. “I feel good. It’s great representing this community. I grew up here and I think there are a lot of things to improve in West County, but I think we’ve done a lot of things.”
Despite the early returns, Phillips wasn’t ready to concede defeat.
“I think that it’s encouraging,” Phillips said of the numbers. “It’s only 20 percent (of the total vote), and I’m within 5,000 votes. So we’re going to be up for a while looking at results, because this race is not over. This race is still winnable.”
Mail-in and absentee ballots are generally thought to tend more conservatively than in-person balloting, although with the growing popularity of mail-in voting, that trend is beginning to change.
Phillips, who announced his candidacy for the supervisor position over a year ago, faced an uphill battle the entire way to unseat Gioia, a generally popular incumbent. As of the most recent campaign finance reporting date, in late May, Gioia had raised and spent over $100,000 in campaign contributions. Phillips, on the other hand, managed to raise $4,678 and spent just over $5,000. Phillips’ shoestring campaign primarily focused on how life for West County residents has remained mostly unchanged during Gioia’s tenure on the board of supervisors.
Ed Bear, a Gioia supporer who has known the supervisor for 15 years, seemed confident Gioia would emerge victorious.
“I’m surprised someone was even running against him,” Bear said from the rally.
The race took a turn for the nasty in the final weeks, when West County residents received a campaign mailer detailing Phillips’ 2009 run-in with the sheriff’s department that landed him in county jail after he allegedly crossed a police line at the scene of a murder-suicide in the Montalvin Manor neighborhood. Phillips apparently told sheriffs’ officers during the arrest that he was running for supervisor, and that arresting him was “a big mistake.”
The mailer quoted Jim Bickert, the president of the Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association as saying, “This clearly showed a misplaced sense of importance and was an irresponsible act for a person who says he’s ready to lead.”
On Sunday, Phillips responded to the mailer with an email to the press pointing out that he was never prosecuted, and that the Office of the Sheriff found that the involved deputies had shown “unbecoming conduct.”
The mailer was paid for by an independent expenditure committee called the Contra Costa Coalition for Jobs. According to ibabuzz.com, the committee’s top funder is BI Land LLC, a company that is owned by Samir Kawar, a developer who has been working on a development proposal in the Tassajara Valley.
In the two biggest statewide races, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina won the GOP nominations for governor and U.S. senate, respectively. Whitman will face two-time former governor Jerry Brown in November, while Fiorina will challenge incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer.
According to several reports from around the Bay Area, turnout for Tuesday’s primary appeared low. A Field Poll conducted this week indicated that about a third of the state’s registered voters planned to cast a direct primary ballot.
At the Marina Bay Harbor Master’s Building polling station in Richmond, election inspectors said there’d been little action all day. Inspectors said they expected only about 100 voters to show up at their polling place, although they had 600 blank ballots, in both English and Spanish, at the ready. But at 5 p.m., there were no voters present there at all, although one man stopped by to drop off a mail-in ballot.
“I’ve voted since I was 18 years old,” said Tim Dunbar, a Marina Bay resident. “I just do it every time – it’s not so much about the issues, it’s about the principle of the thing.”
In other early local returns, there appeared to be a bit of a surprise in the race for County District Attorney. Antioch city councilman and deputy D.A. Mark Peterson led former County Superior Court judge Dan O’Malley 51-34 percent with 155 of 628 precincts reporting, with Elle Falahat, a former Ventura County deputy D.A. trailing with close to 15 percent of the vote. O’Malley out-fundraised both his competitors by a wide margin and figured to enjoy a level of name recognition – both his father and sister have been Bay Area district attorneys – than either of his competitors.
Incumbent County Assessor Gus Kramer was also leading a crowded field of challengers after early returns in his race with 56.95 percent of the tallied vote. John Nejedly was next highest at just under 25 percent, while Bob Brooks had collected just under 13 percent of the vote. If no candidate in either the D.A. or Assessor’s race receives over 50 percent of Tuesday’s vote, the top two will compete in a November runoff.
In the race to become the next County Sheriff/Coroner, Concord Police Chief David Livingston led Deputy Sheriff Brian Kalinowski 56-44 percent, a margin of close to 8,000 votes. Russell Watts was leading Karen Thibodeau by close to 12,000 votes in the race to be the county’s tax collector.
Measure D, the bond proposition that would charge West Contra Costa Unified School District homeowners roughly $48 per $100,000 of their home’s assessed value to help fund improvements to 11 district campuses, was passing 59-41 percent, after 24 of 129 precincts reported their tallies.
Three county seats are being run unopposed: Joseph Ovick for County Superintendent of Schools; Robert Campbell for Auditor/Controller; and Stephen Weir for County Clerk-Recorder.
Tom Torlakson, a state senator from Antioch, led Contra Costa County voters in his bid to become the state’s next superintendent of public schools. In county early returns, he’d received just under 50 percent of the vote, while Larry Aceves had received just over 12 percent. Statewide, early returns favored Aceves, 21.6 percent to 18.9 percent for Torlakson. Los Angeles’ Gloria Romero had received 15 percent of the early returns statewide.
In other races, Contra Costa GOP voters favored Gary Clift early over Buddy Burke 53-45 percent in their primary to challenge Congressman John Garamendi for the 10th congressional seat, which includes a small part of Richmond. Rick Tubbs was leading his GOP rivals in the bid to challenge incumbent Democrat George Miller as U.S. Representative for the 7th congressional district. Ryan Hatcher will represent the GOP in November’s general election race against Democrat Nancy Skinner for the 14th state assembly seat after running unopposed Tuesday.
Check Richmond Confidential Wednesday for complete election results, and visit the Secretary of State’s Web site for information on statewide races, and the Contra Costa County Election Department’s site for county races.
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