Laurie Sylwester

Age: 62

Occupation: Teacher, Columbia College

What is your favorite smartphone app: The ones that I use extensively are for communications. People either call me, or text me or email me, so I use those the most to communicate with them.

What are you reading: I spend a lot of time reading The Economist. I look for the scientific and economic impacts to humanity that we’ll be addressing as a Board of Supervisors.

Who is a leader you admire: Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. His photo is on my wall. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?’“

Anaiah Kirk

Age: 34

Occupation: Supervising Correctional Counselor, Sierra Conservation Center

What is your favorite smartphone app: Instagram. A picture is worth a thousand words, and my wife posts beautiful pictures of our family. I like to look occasionally to be reminded of them.

What are you reading: Everyday I read the Bible. Currently, I’m reading a book by Mark Levin called “Rediscovering Americanism.”

Who is a leader you admire: Ronald Reagan. He was able to connect with people in a way that many other politicians weren’t able to.

Perhaps no other local race in Tuolumne County has gotten more attention this year than the one for supervisor of District 3.

The candidates, Laurie Sylwester and Anaiah Kirk, have battled fiercely for the seat that will be vacated by Evan Royce, who decided in February that he wouldn’t seek a third four-year term.

District 3 voters will decide on Nov. 6 whether to send Sylwester back to the Board of Supervisors 20 years after electing her to her first and only term, or to give Kirk his first position in public office on the county’s top elected panel.

It marks the first time in eight years that District 3 voters will have a choice in who gets to represent them on the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors, because Royce ran unopposed in the June 2014 primary election.

The results on election night could come down to the wire if the results from the June primary election are any indication. Kirk came out on top of a field of four with 1,118 votes, or about 36 percent, while Sylwester finished second by less than 100 votes.

Sylwester, 62, of Tuolumne, and Kirk, 34, of Soulsbyville, have both taken shots at each others’ qualifications and positions on issues since the primary, culminating in a dispute surrounding campaign finances late last week.

Kirk alleged at a public forum and a subsequent Facebook post he paid to have sponsored that Sylwester’s campaign-finance reports were filled out incorrectly and underreported her donations and spending.

The question centered on donations and spending from 2017 that were included in an earlier report for January 2018 and not included going forward.

Candidates are required to report their total donations received and spending for the current year only, but Sylwester and her treasurer said the California Fair Political Practice Commission gave them advice to include the 2017 donations in her initial filing for January.

Sylwester has since filed amended reports with the county Elections Office at the advice of her attorney that include a completely separate one for only the donations and spending in 2017 to avoid further confusion.

“When you don’t have experience to run on, you really only have character assassination and that’s your strategy,” she said on Thursday. “This is way more than whisper campaign, because they’ve paid Facebook to boost all these posts with defamatory statements.”

Kirk said he stands by his decision to confront Sylwester publicly about his concerns over the reports, despite the amended versions showing that the numbers added up.

“I’m glad she took her lawyer’s advice and amended the (reports),” he said “I reported the facts and stand behind that.”

Putting the controversy aside, both candidates have accumulated and spent a relatively large amount of campaign cash compared to past supervisor races.

Kirk had the edge over Sylwester in terms of funding and spending. He’s amassed $43,325 in both cash and in-kind donations and spent $39,337 as of Oct. 20, according to his latest finance report that was required to be filed by all candidates on Thursday.

Sylwester has received a total of $28,135 as of Oct. 20, which includes a $2,700 donation given on Monday by Gilbert Wesson, of Tuolumne, and $7,570 in total contributions received in late November and December 2017. She has spent $21,378, which includes $2,892 from last year.

Almost all of Sylwester’s supporters who have donated at least $100 to her campaign are retired individuals. She’s also received $200 from Burns Refuse Service, a family owned trash collection business in Tuolumne.

While $2,000 of Sylwester’s money comes from a personal loan to herself, Kirk pledged early on not to spend a dime from his own pocket.

Most of Kirk’s donations come from individuals, some of which are local public figures, including Twain Harte School District Superintendent Rick Hennes, Tuolumne Utilities District Director Bob Rucker, TUD candidate Jeff Kerns, Blue Mountain Minerals CEO Jeff Redoutey, District 5 Supervisor Karl Rodefer, and pastors from the Word of Life Fellowship church in Mi-Wuk Village.

Rodefer and his wife, Jo, an elected trustee for Columbia Union School District, have together given the most money to Kirk’s campaign. They’ve donated a combined $2,900 in cash and $750 in tickets to the Reagan Dinner hosted earlier this year by the Tuolumne County Republican Party.

Sylwester has publicly called into question whether it’s ethical for a sitting supervisor like Rodefer contributing to the campaign of a non-incumbent candidate for the board.

Kirk said he found it “ironic and funny” that he’s specifically using the money donated to him by the Rodefers to fund his ads urging county voters to vote against Measure M, an initiative Karl Rodefer voted in favor of putting on the ballot that would allow the board to tax marijuana businesses.

Though the county currently doesn’t allow sales or cultivation of cannabis for commercial purposes, the four supervisors who voted in favor of putting the measure on the ballot said they were doing so in case local or state laws — which currently allow cities and counties to ban commercial activity — should change.

“The current board has stated publicly that they will not allow commercial cultivation unless they can tax it, so if they can’t tax it, they won’t allow it,” he said. “The real question the county Board of Supervisors should be putting on the ballot is — do the citizens want commercial cultivation?”

Sylwester said at a public forum earlier this month that she would keep an open mind on the issue of commercial cannabis cultivation and businesses, though she also has some concerns.

Much has changed in politics, both locally and nationally, since Sylwester first successfully ran for the District 3 seat in 1998, when she ran against Gary Sipperley and the late Cary Wingo in the primary.

“Gary Sipperley was an acquaintance and we became good friends, while Cary Wingo was a longtime family friend,” she said. “We respected each other and moved on, but it’s a much different campaign now.”

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


Anaiah Kirk contributors and spending: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/e/2PACX-1vSEv4lhoifL0SVtHrVc5mk_CKfbpkE_co-Lt6HTb2xu5T2U-EUE6pQZNQ6pctvVg2sPg4bwNkIM4YtO/pubhtml

Laurie Sylwester contributors and spending: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/e/2PACX-1vSsY3HuzoeHhsnrbjXE7tzak-ABXwQ834QRURHfEaNrBWlyydpsHgHMbUdnyaHlZSLuWFSWcC3fwugI/pubhtml

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