Tryon trails Ponte in District 4

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat /

Former Angels Camp Mayor Debbie Ponte held a solid lead Tuesday night against Tom Tryon, who had sought an eighth consecutive term on the county Board of Supervisors, representing District 4.

Ponte tallied 2,216 votes (60.1 percent) to Tryon's 1,462 (39.6 percent) at the end of Tuesday's counting.

Calaveras County Elections Coordinator Rebecca Turner refused to make an estimate of how many ballots remained to be counted after Tuesday's final count. Turner said the outstanding votes are provisional ballots and those turned into the Elections Office after 5 p.m.

Ponte hosted a small victory party at her home Tuesday night and said voters appeared to have responded to her campaign message.

"We're very pleased. I think a lot of it is people were wanting a change … and upset with the current dysfunctions of some people on the board," she said.

Ponte said she met one-on-one with many voters and heard a consistent message about displeasure with the status quo.

"I go in with no preconceived pet projects or favoritisms or good-old-boy networks," she said.

Tryon, who did not respond to phone messages left Tuesday night, first gained election to the board in 1984. The Angels Camp rancher and occasional Libertarian Party candidate for higher office became famous for a series of victories by narrow margins that came to be known locally as the "Tryon landslide" effect. He fended off a challenge from then-Angels Camp City Councilman Lee Seaton in 2008 that was not assured for days after election night.

For most of Tryon's tenure, which has made him the second-longest serving county supervisor behind only Michael Antonovich of Los Angeles County, District 4 consisted of the section of Highway 4 from Angels Camp to Murphys. In redistricting last year brought on by the 2010 U.S. Census results, it was redrawn to swap out Murphys for the Copperopolis area that experienced some of the county's fastest growth during the last decade.

One of the most controversial issues in the race centered on the county's plans for a Highway 4 realignment of the "Wagon Trail" section between Angels Camp and Copperopolis. Ponte came down firmly on the side of a proposed route favored by owners of property along the affected portion of the highway while Tryon said he would not favor one route or another until after the public hearing process.

Ponte, who also serves as executive director of the Foothill Village retirement community, faced some scrutiny about working full-time while also serving as supervisor, but has said she can and will hold both positions if elected.

Contact Sean Janssen at sjanssen@uniondemocrat.com or 890-7741.

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