By ABBY SOUZA
From widely diverse views to accusations to the inevitable campaign pot shots, the District 2 race between Don Ratzlaff and Paolo Maffei will be remembered as the nastiest local race of the 2002 elections wild enough to put the duo among The Union Democrat's top newsmakers of 2002.
Maffei, a Phoenix Lake area resident, decided to run for office in late 2001.
At the time, he was one of four candidates, along with Judy Halling, a youth and families program director for the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency; William "Brice" Canaday of Soulsbyville who later dropped out to support Halling and Don Ratzlaff, the incumbent hoping for a second term.
Problems started brewing even before the March primary, when Halling in February accused Maffei and District 3 candidate Jim Peterson of using unethical "big city" campaign tactics.
Maffei and Peterson, who together paid a college student to work on their campaigns and had a state Capital worker as a campaign volunteer, said the allegations were unfounded. Maffei admitted he was disorganized at the beginning, and said the second half of the campaign was run better than the first.
But that didn't end the early contentions.
Halling also said Maffei claimed she told him Ratzlaff asked her to run to split the vote.
In addition, Maffei believed Ratzlaff had something to do with his loss of an endorsement by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
Ratzlaff called that allegation "a flat out lie."
That was when the Maffei-Ratzlaff feud really took off.
Maffei and Ratzlaff beat out Halling in March, leaving them to face voters in November. At the time, each said the race would hinge on growth and development, but it became an exercise in accusations involving the candidates and their supporters throughout the next seven months.
Less than a month after the primaries, a number of public interest groups accused Ratzlaff of calling the Sierra Business Council (SBC) in Truckee to cancel a meeting in Sonora.