The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office race will head to a runoff in November with current Sheriff Rick DiBasilio set to face off against Gary Lee Stevens, a former Calaveras County sheriff deputy, unless the 2,700 vote by mail ballots not yet counted allow one of the candidates to overcome the threshold of 50 percent plus 1 vote.
DiBasilio nearly won the election outright, but fell short by 31 votes.
DiBasilio earned 4,503 votes, or 49.67 percent. Stevens earned 2,629 votes, or 29 percent. Patrick Garrahan, who earned 1,924 votes and 21.22 percent of the total, will not advance to the runoff election in November.
A total of 9,066 votes were submitted for the office of sheriff. A total of 9,562 ballots were submitted in the county from a total of 28,944 registered voters.
“I like to run like I’m in last place so I’m still working hard,” DiBasilio said after the all of the precincts had reported. “They're excited. We are very, very confident that we are going to win in November if it goes to November. We’re just still hoping we get enough votes to finish it off right now.”
In an emailed statement, Stevens thanked his supporters “for their help, effort and their votes.”
“As it appears the primary has resulted in a runoff, I look forward to the next step in this campaign,” he said.
Stevens could not be reached for additional comment.
Garrahan said in an emailed statement he was “disappointed” in the results. He wished “good luck” to DiBasilio and Stevens in the presumed November runoff.
Following the vote tally from all the precincts, over 2,700 vote by mail ballots had not been tallied, Robin Glanville, assistant clerk-recorder said, but the office anticipated posting the returns by Wednesday night.
There remained an additional 3,300 unprocessed ballots, Glanville said, including vote by mail ballots received by precincts, vote by mail ballots received by the elections office on Wednesday and provisional ballots
Glanville said that if voters postmarked and sent in vote by mail ballots by Tuesday and they were received by the Calaveras County Elections by Friday, the votes would still be counted.
The amount of vote by mail ballots that would be received by Friday was unknown, she said. The earliest the elections office expected to post the returns from the 3,300 ballots plus any additional ballots received on Thursday and Friday would be Friday night, she said.
Also, if voters did not sign a vote by mail envelope, they had until June 13 to sign the unsigned balance statement and validate their ballot, she said.
Glanville said the office had 30 days to complete their canvassing, which included tallying a final and complete vote of the primary election. The official results would then be submitted to the Board of Supervisors, she said.
“Were working with the thirty days right now, trying to get it done as quickly as we can while also doing it accurately, “ she said.
Calaveras County has a population of about 44,000 people. Of the total ballots submitted, the county saw a total voter turnout of about 33 percent of registered voters.
DiBasilio said about 30 people remained at the La Contenta Golf Club in Valley Springs through the conclusion of the vote tallying on Tuesday night at about 11:15 p.m.
His campaign strategy would not change, he noted, even if the additional vote by mail ballots didn’t prove to be the push he needed to reach above the 50 percent threshold.
“We’ll just keep going the way were going,” he said. “We just keep going. Business is normal.”
DiBasilio passed above the 50 percent threshold as the first vote by mail ballots were submitted to the Calaveras County Elections office. As ballots from the individual precincts were tallied, DiBasilio saw his lead shrink slightly, just a third of a percentage point below 50 percent, and hover there throughout the night.
Garrahan posted slight gains in his percentage throughout the evening, with Stevens diminishing a half-percentage point following the first returns.
Prior to the first precinct returns, DiBasilio said he was “confident” that the final vote would put him above 50 percent of the total. He said Tuesday night that the hoped the uncounted ballots would put him above the 50 percent threshold and preclude the possibility of a runoff with Stevens.
Much of the debate of the Calaveras County Sheriff’s race has hinged on the contentious issue of commercial cannabis cultivation in the county.
Following a 3-2 Board of Supervisors vote in January, a ban on the commercial cultivation of cannabis took effect on March 9, with a 90-day grace period for permitted growers to come into compliance. That grace period ends on Thursday, June 7, and only cultivation for registered personal use will be allowed after that date.
During previous interviews with The Union Democrat, the candidates have pledged to uphold the law as decided by the voters and the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors.
A central campaign tenet for Stevens has been his complete opposition to commercial cannabis activities in the county. Garrahan has voiced support for strict regulation of commercial growing as opposed to an outright ban.
DiBasilio, appointed to the position by a 4-1 Board of Supervisors vote in May 2016 following the unexpected death of former Sheriff Gary Kuntz, has said he enforced the laws set by the Board of Supervisors during his tenure.
Prior to the outright ban, Calaveras County allowed for commercial cultivation of cannabis by approved, permitted growers under the February 2016 “urgency ordinance.”