Voters throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley will find a packed ballot when they go to the polls Tuesday.
They'll have to make serious choices in races from president to mayors and council members of regional cities along with statewide measures about the death penalty, political contributions, and funding for education and public safety.
Historically, the presidential election draws a larger number of voters every four years.
In Stanislaus County, 162,941 voters cast their ballots in the 2008 presidential election. That's about 71 percent of the 230,163 registered voters in the county that year. The percentage of voters hovered around 65 percent in three presidential elections before that.
The presidential primary in June had only 69,821 ballots cast, or 31 percent of the 220,567 registered voters in the county.
When they grab their ballots, voters first will have to decide who will lead the country for the next four years. President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, are the more widely known of six presidential candidates on the ballot.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein is running for re-election in California with little opposition, but the federal election that has made more noise, at least locally, is the highly contested race in the 10th Congressional District between Republican Rep. Jeff Denham and Democrat Jose Hernandez. Nearly $12 million is being spent to sway voters, with most of that money coming from outside the region.
The 10th District includes all of Stanislaus County as well as Escalon, Ripon, Manteca and Tracy.
Attack ad riles incumbent
The race turned particularly nasty two weeks ago when Denham sued over what he calls a misleading political ad. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee stands by the attack ad, which has to do with Denham's votes last year on a potential shutdown of the government and military pay.
Nearly $6 million about $2.4 million from committees independent of candidates has been spent on the state's 5th Senate District race between Democrat Cathleen Galgiani and Republican Bill Berryhill, who often have been allies while serving in the Assembly. The district's boundaries encompass all of San Joaquin County, most of Modesto and Salida, Riverbank and Empire.
A win by Galgiani could bring Democrats close to the two-thirds majority needed in the state Senate to approve tax increases or certain other measures without Republican votes. Voters have been inundated by TV ads and campaign mail from both sides.
In the state's 12th Assembly District, Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen of Modesto is running for re-election against Democrat Christopher Mateo, a Lathrop city councilman. The district, which takes in much of Stanislaus County and parts of San Joaquin County, was created by redistricting.
Democrat Adam Gray and Republican Jack Mobley are vying in the 21st Assembly District, which includes all of Merced County, south and west Modesto, Ceres, Patterson and Newman.
Many cities with municipal contests
There are plenty of choices to make in local government races.
Voters in Riverbank will decide among seven candidates seeking two open spots on the City Council. And the mayor's race features a battle between incumbent Virginia Madueño and Councilman Richard O'Brien.
In Patterson, Mayor Luis Molina is running for re-election against challenger Troy Wayne McComack, while six other candidates are vying for two seats on the City Council.
In other council races in Stanislaus County, four candidates are running for two seats in Turlock, eight for three positions in Oakdale, three for two spots in Waterford and three for two spots in Hughson.
In TV ads and mailed materials, the campaigns have been heated for and against 11 state propositions on the ballot.
Proposition 30 is Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative to increase education and local public safety funding and block spending cuts. Opponents say the sales tax increase would be tough on consumers and small business as the state tries to recover from recession.
PTAs back Proposition 38, a tax measure that would save school districts from midyear cuts, but primarily stabilizes funding to cities and counties. Since Propositions 30 and 38 overlap, the one with the most votes would prevail if both win.
Unions have carried out an extensive effort to defeat Proposition 32, which would eliminate unions' automatic deductions from members' paychecks for political purposes. Proponents say the prohibitions are for corporations as well, but opponents say the proposed state law is designed to politically silence union members and middle-income families.
And state voters will weigh in again on the death penalty; Proposition 34 would repeal capital punishment in California.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.