The recent primary election produced some interesting storylines across the board. There were some genuine surprises; several races “too close to call”; and a disappointing vote — from our perspective — on Measure C.
Starting at the top of the ledger, Republican Congressman Tom McClintock is well-positioned to represent Tuolumne and Calaveras counties in the U.S. House of Representatives for the newly drawn District 4. He won 64 percent of the vote in the June primary and will again face Democrat Jack Uppal in November. District 4 is strongly conservative and Republican — with the GOP owning a double-digit lead in voter registration versus Democrats.
Tuolumne County’s current Congressman, Republican Jeff Denham is now running in newly re-drawn District 10 (all of Stanislaus and parts of San Joaquin county). He will face Democrat Jose Hernandez in the fall. Denham will be missed by many here in Tuolumne County. He was accessible, engaged and concerned about our issues and made many visits to the county over the last two years. He showed leadership on veterans issues, agriculture and government waste and inefficiency. The subcommittee he chairs has challenged the General Services Administration to take action on the billions of dollars of government waste in vacant and under-used federal buildings and facilities.
In the state Assembly, we say farewell to Kristen Olsen who has been a remarkable first term assemblywoman — highly respected and appreciated by her constituents and colleagues. Like Denham, Olsen invested a great deal of time and energy in the Mother Lode. She worked with Tuolumne and Calaveras supervisors to help implement their legislative agendas on roads, regulatory concerns and other issues. She also lobbied successfully to bring the Amgen Tour of California to Sonora. She was unopposed in her newly-created District 12 — and has a good chance of being elected in the fall.
The newly-implemented primary system resulted in a single-party runoff in state Assembly District 5 with Republicans Rico Oller and Frank Bigelow battling in November. In the six-candidate race Oller led Bigelow by 34 percent to 29 percent. District 5 runs from parts of El Dorado and Placer counties south to Mono and Madera counties — and includes all of Tuolumne and Calaveras.
Oller has previously represented parts of the district as an Assemblyman and state senator. Having grown up in Tuolumne county and now living and working in Calaveras, Oller received a strong plurality of votes here in the Mother Lode.
Other races of interest:
The contests for Tuolumne County Superior Court were decisive in favor of the incumbents. Judge Eleanor Provost defeated County Counsel Gregory Oliver 74 percent to 26 percent. Judge Donald Segerstrom defeated Alex Aretakis 76 percent to 24 percent.
District 4 Supervisor John Gray was easily re-elected for a second term with 74 percent of the vote over Nolan Matter.
Karl Rodefer won nearly 50 percent of the vote in the race for District 5 Supervisor. In November, he will face Dominic Torchia who received 22 percent of all votes cast.
Sherri Brennan earned a solid plurality of votes in the District 1 Supervisor’s race with 36 percent of the vote. She will face incumbent Supervisor Liz Bass who received 25 percent of the votes in a 5-candidate field.
Connie Williams impressed Sonora voters with an energetic campaign and won a seat on the city council, leading the other four candidates in total votes. She is the first woman to serve on the council since Marlee Powell in 2005. Ron Stearn, who has served on the council for 48 years, was returned to office, as was current Mayor Bill Canning.
This newspaper strongly supported Measure C — the expansion of the TOT tax to RV parks, campgrounds and houseboats. It failed to pass, earning only 44 percent of the vote.
We’re disappointed in the outcome. Two years ago city and county voters easily passed joint measures that raised the TOT lodging tax paid by tourists from 8 percent to 10 percent.
This most recent measure to broaden and expand TOT was not only a matter of fairness, but more importantly, the key to funding the on-going operations of two iconic and historic institutions — Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and the Mother Lode Fairgrounds.
All of us are appreciative of and encouraged by the $75,000 matching grant provided by the Sonora Area Foundation to aid Railtown. And we acknowledge and thank the five Tuolumne County Rotary Clubs whose fund-raising activities matched that amount. Their collective energy, creativity and community activism is terrific. Yet that $150,000 — as important and impressive as it is — will not help extend Railtown’s future for more than a year. And sadly, there are no dollars allocated for the Fairgrounds in that initiative.
We now expect that the vocal opponents of Measure C — who led and supported the effort to defeat the very best solution for the near-term sustainability and financial health of Railtown and the Fairgrounds — will step up to the plate. They claimed throughout this campaign that they were supporters of those two venues. They claimed there had to be better solutions — yet offered no alternative plans.
Let’s see how supportive they will be, going forward. Perhaps they should start by opening their wallets and pocketbooks with generous donations to both Railtown and the Fairgrounds.