Campaign season kicked off Thursday with more than a dozen incumbents and challengers in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties picking up paperwork to begin the process of potentially running for public office in the June 5 primary election next year.

Those who pulled papers can now begin collecting signatures from registered voters to reduce or avoid filing fees that range from $398 to $2,000 depending on the office. They must file the required amount of eligible signatures to the elections office in their respective counties by Feb. 7.

Picking up the paperwork on the first day they are allowed to by law indicates a strong intention of ultimately running for office, though they can decide not to at any time.

Tuolumne County Clerk and Auditor-Controller Debi Bautista, who also oversees elections in the county as the registrar of voters, said people have pulled the “signatures-in-lieu” paperwork and then decided not to run in past years.

“They could still just be testing the waters,” said Bautista, “especially in those races where multiple people have indicated their intention to run.”

Local positions that will be on the 2018 election ballot in Tuolumne County are District 2 county supervisor, District 3 county supervisor, sheriff-coroner, district attorney, two superior court judges, county clerk and auditor-controller, treasurer-tax collector, assessor-recorder and superintendent of schools.

Potential candidates for county supervisor must collect 449 signatures in District 2 and 441 in District 3 to avoid paying a filing fee, while all other countywide offices require 2,219 signatures.

There will also be two seats up for grabs on the Sonora City Council that are currently held by incumbents Jim Garventa and George Segarini, but they don’t have to pay filing fees. Each seat carries a four-year term.

The ballot in Calaveras County will include county supervisor seats in districts 3 and 5, sheriff, district attorney, coroner-public administrator, superintendent of schools, treasurer-tax collector, county clerk-recorder, assessor, and auditor-controller.

People vying for county supervisor in District 3 must collect 427 signatures to avoid having to pay the filing fee, while those in District 5 must collect 393. All other countywide offices require 2,035 signatures.

To ultimately get on the June 5 ballot, candidates can start pulling nomination papers on Feb. 12 and must file them with their respective elections office by March 9 after collecting between 20 to 40 signatures and paying whatever filing fee is still needed.

Any position where the incumbent is not running gets until March 14.

All of the local positions that will be on the ballot in each county are four-year terms, except for the two judgeships in Tuolumne County that each serve for six years.

All of the local races could head to potential runoffs in the Nov. 6 general election between the top two vote-getters unless one of the candidates in the June 5 primary receives more than half of the votes cast.

Tuolumne County

As of 3:45 p.m. Thursday, incumbents Bautista, District Attorney Laura Krieg, Sheriff Jim Mele, Presiding Superior Court Judge Donald Segerstrom and Assessor-Recorder Kaenan Whitman had picked up their signatures-in-lieu paperwork from the Tuolumne County Elections Office.

Bautista said incumbent Superintendent of Schools Margie Bulkin, District 2 Supervisor Randy Hanvelt and District 3 Supervisor Evan Royce have all previously indicated their intentions to run for re-election.

Former District 3 Supervisor Laurie Sylwester pulled papers to begin the process of potentially challenging Royce, who would be seeking his third consecutive term after running unopposed for reelection in 2014.

Sylwester, an art professor at Columbia College, didn’t seek re-election after her first term from 1999 to 2003.

The district includes the township of Tuolumne, Ponderosa Hills, Twain Harte, Mi-Wuk Village, and all other communities to the east of Highway 108.

Ryan Campbell also pulled paperwork Thursday to begin the process of a potential bid for the District 2 seat currently held by Hanvelt, a retired General Electric executive who would also be seeking his third consecutive term on the board.

Campbell works as an administrative analyst for the county in the Office of Emergency Services. He previously worked as a journalist and was deputy editor of The Union Democrat.

The district includes the communities of Soulsbyville, Willow Springs, Crystal Falls, Phoenix Lake Country Club Estates, Brentwood Park, Cedar Ridge, and areas north of Big Hill Road.

Michelle Ronning picked up paperwork Thursday for a bid to become the next Tuolumne County treasurer-tax collector as incumbent Shelley Piech has announced she will not seek re-election and is retiring after 25 years of working for the county. (See story on Page A2 for more about Piech’s retirement.)

Ronning, of Groveland, has worked in the county Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office as the revenue recovery manager since June 2013. She serves directly under Piech and helps manage the office’s three departments.

This will mark Ronning’s first time running for public office.

“I love my job and want to keep our team together,” Ronning said. “I think it would be a more natural progression (for her to take over for Piech) than anyone from outside, but there will definitely be some learning involved.”

The other judgeship that will be on the ballot is currently held by incumbent Judge Kevin Seibert, though he did not pick up paperwork for collecting signatures in-lieu of filing fees as of about 3:45 p.m. Thursday.

Calaveras County

In Calaveras County, incumbent County Clerk-Recorder Rebecca Turner, Superintendent of Schools Scott Nanik, and District 5 Supervisor Clyde Clapp had pulled papers as of about 3:45 p.m. Thursday.

Bruce Giudici will potentially challenge incumbent Clapp for county supervisor in District 5.

Giudici works as the fiscal officer for the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency, a joint-powers authority comprised of Tuolumne and Amador counties that also provides services to Calaveras, Mariposa and Alpine counties.

Clapp was elected to the seat in November 2016 following the recall of former District 5 County Supervisor Steve Kearney. Giudici also ran in that election and in came in third with 594 votes ahead of David Tunno in fourth with 510, but behind Robert Bowerman in second with 612 votes and Clapp with 922.

The district includes the communities of Milton, Jenny Lind and Rancho Calaveras.

Gary Stevens, a former Calaveras County deputy who currently works as an investigator for the Amador County District Attorney’s Office, pulled papers to a possible run at sheriff.

Stevens was a finalist for the job following the death of former Sheriff Gary Kuntz. Incumbent Sheriff Rick DiBasilio was selected over Stevens by the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors in May 2016.

Auditor-Controller Rebecca Callen announced in October she would not be seeking re-election next year.

Federal and state

Voters in both counties will see federal primary races for U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative for California’s Congressional District 4.

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has announced she’s running for re-election to the office she’s held since 1992. At 84, she’s currently the older serving U.S. Senator.

Meanwhile, incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, is facing potential challenges from both Democrats and a fellow Republican as he seeks a sixth consecutive two-year term representing California’s Congressional District 4.

Democrats Jessica Morse, Roza Calderon, Regina Bateson and Richard Martin have announced their candidacies and begun fundraising to unseat the veteran politician. Republican Steven Castellano has announced his bid as well.

Under California’s top-two primary system, the two candidates who receive the most votes regardless of party will advance to a runoff in the November general election.

Morse surprised many earlier this year by raising more money than McClintock in the third quarter of the year. She had about $248,000 left in cash to spend as of Sept. 30, while he had about $354,000.

In November, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added the largely Republican district to its list of targets in 2018 following Morse’s strong quarter of fundraising and Democratic victories in traditionally red districts elsewhere.

The large district spans 10 mostly rural counties from Truckee south to the Sequoia National Forest, including Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Mariposa, Madera, Nevada, Placer, and Tuolumne.

Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, is looking to be re-elected to his fourth consecutive terms representing the Fifth Assembly District, which includes Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Placer and Tuolumne counties.

The seat representing the Eighth State Senate District that State Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, has held onto since December 2014 will be wide open as Berryhill will term out after 12 years in the California State Legislature.

Other statewide primary races that Mother Lode voters will see on their June 5 ballot are governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller, treasurer, attorney general, insurance commissioner, and superintendent of public instruction.

Contact Alex MacLean at or (209) 588-4530.