Upcoming forums to meet candidates

• 6 p.m. Wednesday, hosted by the State of Jefferson’s Tuolumne County chapter in the Board of Supervisors chambers on the fourth floor of the County Administration Center, at 2 S. Green St. in Sonora.

• 6 p.m. Thursday, hosted by the Tuolumne County Democratic Club at the Sonora Opera Hall, at 250 S. Washington St., Sonora.

• 6 p.m. Monday, hosted by the Twain Harte Chamber of Commerce for District 3 county supervisor candidates at the Twain Harte Community Center, at 18775 Manzanita Dr., Twain Harte.

• 5:30 p.m. May 3, hosted by the Tuolumne County Farm Bureau at the Sonora Opera Hall, at 250 S. Washington St., Sonora.

• 5 p.m. May 10, hosted by the Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce in the Board of Supervisors chambers on the fourth floor of the County Administration Center, at 2 S. Green St. in Sonora.

Seven candidates running for the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors offered a diverse range of views regarding government’s role in accomplishing the common goal of making a more vibrant and prosperous community.

The three who are vying to represent District 2 and four who are seeking to replace outgoing District 3 Supervisor Evan Royce were asked questions about some of the most pressing issues facing the county at a candidate forum on Monday night hosted by Clarke Broadcasting in Sonora.

It was the second of seven such forums scheduled to be held over the next couple of weeks ahead of the June 5 primary election, with the first held earlier in the day by the Tuolumne County Republican Women Federated that featured only candidates who are registered Republicans (see box for list of upcoming forums).

All 13 candidates in the four contested local races and more than 60 people attended Monday night’s forum that was moderated by KVML News Director BJ Hansen, including the four who are running for two open seats on the Sonora City Council and two who are vying to become the county’s next treasurer-tax collector.

Each candidate gave a brief opening statement, followed by giving an answer to questions from Hansen, and ending with a closing statement.

Questions for the supervisor candidates touched on a variety of hot-button issues the county is currently facing, such as looming budget deficits, deteriorating roads, a lack of affordable housing, homelessness and commercial marijuana cultivation and sales.

Incumbent District 2 Supervisor Randy Hanvelt talked about the need for experience, his track record in advocating for the county’s interests and connections that he’s cultivated with state and federal lawmakers over his past seven-plus years in office.

Ryan Campbell and Dave Titchenal, who are challenging Hanvelt, both emphasized a need for a change in leadership, but for largely different reasons.

Campbell, a county administrative analyst, said he wants to put his focus on ensuring that government services used by working families are fully funded, such as libraries, recreation and improving roads, while also working with public and private entities to expand broadband Internet access in hopes of it spurring more economic growth.

Titchenal, who owns several businesses related to marketing, advertising and digital media, is one of the founders of the local State of Jefferson chapter seeking to secede from California and form a 51st state. He said he believes the government should focus on only providing the basics, with the top priority being public safety, and leave the rest to the private sector.

Merv Cancio, Anaiah Kirk, Aaron Rasmussen, and Laurie Sylwester, all of whom are vying to replace District 3 Supervisor Evan Royce who has decided not to seek a third consecutive term, also explained their views and how they want to improve the county.

Cancio, a longtime teacher at Curtis Creek Elementary School, talked about how his vision of leadership is to bring together different parts of the community to tackle common goals and said that improving roads would be his top priority.

Kirk, a supervising counselor at Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, said he would never cut any money from law enforcement because he sees that as his top priority. He and Cancio also vowed to vote against allowing commercial marijuana cultivation or sales, which both believed would have societal impacts.

Kirk said he wasn’t “part of the good ol’ boy network” nor has he ever worked on anyone’s political campaign in the past during his closing statements, which prompted Cancio to interject and ask for a rebuttal.

Cancio later said in an interview outside of the board’s chambers that he’s worked on campaigns for outgoing Sheriff Jim Mele, Royce, Presiding Judge Donald Segerstrom and Assessor-Recorder Kaenan Whitman, though he declined to help Kirk before deciding to run himself.

Rasmussen, an Iraq War veteran, said he believed eliminating a projected $12 million budget deficit in the next two years will require the county to cut back on spending for “luxury items, citing the new detention center and Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau as examples. He also pledged to donate 27 percent of his $50,500 salary if elected in protest of the raise the board gave themselves in the same amount last year.

Sylwester, a former District 3 supervisor who served one term from 1999 to 2003 before deciding not to seek a second term, said she would dedicate all of her time to serving the constituents and supported policies to aid the development of small-scale homes that younger families and people starting out could afford.

Nearly all of the more than 60 people in attendance left before the start of the forum that featured the four people running for Sonora City Council, which includes incumbent Mayor Pro-Tem Jim Garaventa, Colette Such, Kurt Bryant and David Axelrod.

Hansen asked the council candidates about pressing topics in the city, including homelessness, Vision Sonora, and what role they feel the council plays in revitalizing the downtown area.

While all of the candidates said they generally the concept of Vision Sonora, a beautification and transportation plan adopted by the council in 2013, they each said there were various aspects that needed some more vetting before being moved forward.

The candidates also acknowledged the recent conclusion by the city’s homeless task force that the city and county need to work together with service providers and private entities on a solution to the growing problem.

Though all of the local races are nonpartisan, there are more registered Democrats running for local office this year than in the past several election cycles.

Three of the four people running for council are registered Democrats, while Bryant is registered as no party preference. Sylwester is the only registered Democrat running for supervisor, with Campbell and Cancio both having no party preference and the rest being registered Republicans.

All five of the current supervisors on the board are registered Republicans, while Garaventa is the only person currently serving on the council who isn’t a Republican.

Both candidates for treasurer-tax collector, Justin Birtwhistle and Michelle Ronning, said they are registered Republicans. They also answered several questions at the forum, with Ronning highlighting her knowledge of the office as the county’s current revenue recovery manager and Birtwhistle talking about his experience as a certified public accountant.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.