Election 2010: D.A. race headed for run-off

on June 9, 2010

The contentious, dogged and at times bruising battle for Contra Costa County District Attorney between Dan O’Malley and Mark Peterson looks like it’ll continue to be waged well into the fall.

Neither O’Malley nor Peterson took home a simple majority of the votes Tuesday in their direct primary race. Peterson, a Concord city councilman and a 25-year deputy D.A., had collected 47.57 percent of the vote as of noon Wednesday, while O’Malley, a former county Superior Court judge and the son of longtime Contra Costa D.A. Bill O’Malley, garnered 36.41 percent — a difference of close to 14,000 votes.

The final few precincts were counted by 3 p.m. Wednesday. Since no candidate received 50 percent of Tuesday’s vote, the top two finishers will advance to a November run-off.

Elle Falahat, a former deputy D.A. in both Santa Clara and Ventura counties, came in third with 15.66 percent of the vote, and will not be included in the November 4 run-off.

Dan O'Malley poses for a photo during a May fundraiser in Richmond. Photo by Robert Rogers.

Peterson was quoted in the Contra Costa Times as saying Tuesday’s results “show that the voters reject the good old boys’ attempt to hand off power.” O’Malley had been endorsed by outgoing D.A. Bob Kochly, who is retiring this year after eight years as the county’s top prosecutor.

The D.A.’s office has been reeling since revelations of lewd, sexual office behavior within the department were detailed in an East Bay Express feature story last fall, a story that came to light following a 2008 rape charge leveled against a deputy prosecutor in the office’s sexual assault unit, by a fellow worker.

Although both O’Malley and Peterson had peripheral connections to the rape case  — Peterson worked in the D.A.’s office and O’Malley’s law partner briefly represented the victim — voters Tuesday did not appear disturbed enough to vote in an outsider.

The apparent District Attorney runoff counted as the biggest surprise on a primary day marked by low voter turnout. Although the official statement of vote has yet to be tallied (it will be released in a month, when the election is officially certified), reports and polls have estimated that fewer than a third of the state’s registered voters participated in Tuesday’s vote.

According to voter turnout figures listed on the Contra Costa County Election Department’s Web site, www.cocovote.us, only 10,384 of the 43,638 registered voters in the Richmond precincts cast a ballot, or 23.79 percent.

In the 2006 June primary — the last non-presidential year primary — 31 percent of Richmond’s registered voters turned out. Countywide, only 21.41 percent of voters cast a ballot in 2006.

That means that roughly 2,000 fewer people in Richmond voted this June than four years ago, despite the fact that 5,000 more people are now registered to vote here than in 2006 — perhaps evidence of a lack of compelling races on the Democratic ticket, which dominates voter registration in Richmond.

In other county races Tuesday, Measure D, the $380 million bond measure to pay for seismic and technology upgrades to 11 West County public school campuses, passed with 62 percent of the vote. As a bond measure, it required a 55 percent “Yes” vote to pass. It’s the fifth school-related bond measure West County voters have passed in 12 years.

“It was a well-managed campaign, and it had broad-based support across all the cities in West County,” school board member Tony Thurmond, a former Richmond city councilman, said. “But that said, it’s a tough economy, so [passing Measure D] is a big accomplishment. The voters understand that the bond program has been managed well, the funds in the district have been managed well, and this is an investment in our students.”

Elsewhere, incumbent County Assessor Gus Kramer fended off a spirited charge from a field of three challengers to reclaim his post for the next four years. Kramer took 55.49 percent of the vote, meaning he won’t have to participate in a November run-off, which he said was a relief. “I had a sense I was going to do well, and be close to 50 percent,” Kramer said Wednesday. “It was just whether I’d make that 50 percent benchmark or not — that was the anxiety — so I wouldn’t have to do this in November.”

John Gioia

Kramer specifically thanked the county’s voters for looking past a series of reports in the Contra Costa Times that suggested he influenced home values on properties that either he or his family owned to alter their property taxes.

“Our message was clear, concise, and it wasn’t confusing,” Kramer said. “We were honest and forthright, and the voting public appreciated that. We didn’t attack anybody, we didn’t speak poorly of anyone, and we weren’t critical of people. We stayed on point.”

John Nejedly came in second in the assessor’s race with 24.47 percent of the vote. Bob Brooks, who made a name for himself last fall when a panel he was on ruled that the assessor’s office had over-assessed the value of Chevron’s Richmond refinery, came in third with 14.41 percent of the vote.

David Livingston

John Gioia, another incumbent, handily won re-election to his seat as the District 1 County Supervisor, topping political newcomer and Richmond native Mister Phillips 78 percent to 20. Gioia, who has held the seat since 1998, will serve for another four years.

David Livingston, the chief of police for Concord, defeated rival Brian Kalinowski, a deputy sheriff, by 13 percentage points, in the bid to succeed the retiring Warren Rupf as County Sheriff and Coroner.

Russell Watts will be the county’s newest Tax Collector, after he defeated risk assessor Karen Thibodeau 55 percent to 44 percent. Steven Weir (Clerk-Recorder), Robert Campbell (Auditor-Controller) and Joseph Ovick (Superintendent of Public Schools) all won their positions unopposed.

For complete county election results, visit the Election Department’s Web site here, or for statewide results, see the Secretary of State’s site here.

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