Election contests are shaping up in Stanislaus County

kcarlson@modbee.comMarch 5, 2014 

Scott Calkins, an advocate for Wood Colony, announced he will challenge incumbent Terry Withrow for the District 3 supervisorial seat in Stanislaus County. It sets up a race in which proposals to expand Highway 132, a possible road-tax measure and Modesto’s designs on Wood Colony will be prominent issues.

Calkins filed as a candidate Wednesday with two days remaining in the nomination period for the June 3 primary. The filing period for county and state offices on the ballot will extend to Wednesday if incumbents who are not termed out don’t seek re-election.

Calkins said he was drawn into the race by Withrow’s support for the Highway 132 project, west of Modesto, which would create a larger route for trucks and commuters, with a new alignment north of the current one. A possible sales tax measure in November would help pay for the highway.

The challenger charged that Withrow’s support for that project shows he is not serious about promises to preserve the rich farmland in his district.

“Once you build that kind of infrastructure, it invites development,” said Calkins, a first-time office seeker. “I blame (the Stanislaus Council of Governments) and the Board of Supervisors for moving forward with a project that absolutely condemns Wood Colony if it is constructed.”

Calkins joined Wood Colony residents in battling a proposal to include about 2,400 acres of the farming enclave west of Highway 99 in Modesto’s general plan. Most of the land would be designated for industrial parks.

The challenger has been a teacher for Modesto City Schools for 18 years and has taught students at Modesto High School since 2000.

Withrow, who’s seeking a second term, said he supports a realigned 132 to provide safer roads and transport locally produced goods. He noted the project was planned decades ago and the state has purchased the land. His support does not mean he favors Modesto annexing Wood Colony, he said.

“I am totally against the annexation of Wood Colony,” Withrow said. “There are plenty examples of highways that go through farmland. There are ways to put in place urban limit lines and preservation easements.”

The incumbent charged that Calkins opposes the realignment because his home is next to the route. Withrow’s district includes Modesto west of Tully Road and Highway 99, Salida and farmland on both sides of 132.

Unless other candidates file in the last 48 hours, the contests for county offices on the primary ballot will be winner-takes-all. Modesto City Councilman Dave Lopez is gunning for the District 4 seat held by Supervisor Dick Monteith, who seeks a third four-year term. District 4 includes Modesto east of Tully Road, the airport neighborhood and Del Rio.

Although he made his intentions known 17 months ago, Deputy Tom Letras made it official this week that he’s running for sheriff, most likely in a two-way race with incumbent Adam Christianson.

District Attorney Birgit Fladager is seeking re-election but faces a challenge from Modesto defense attorney Frank Carson.

Five other incumbents in county elective offices may be unopposed. Auditor-Controller Lauren Klein, Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan, Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon and Treasurer-Tax Collector Gordon Ford have no opponents thus far. Don Gaekle, appointed interim assessor in October, announced in January that he wants the permanent job. Gaekle was promoted after former Assessor Dave Cogdill Sr. accepted a job as chief executive officer of the California Building Industry Association. Real estate broker Edwin Liu pulled a petition in January but said this week he won’t run for assessor.

Nine Superior Court judges whose terms expire are seeking re-election. They are unopposed. In other primaries:

• Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, is running for another term in the 10th Congressional District. Democrat Michael Eggman, a Turlock farmer, is building a campaign. A second Democratic candidate is Mike Barkley of Manteca.

• In Assembly District 12, incumbent Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, is seeking another term. Democrat Harinder Grewal, a county agricultural inspector and Turlock Unified School District trustee, has been submitting papers and is expected to challenge Olsen in November.

• Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, appears to be unopposed for a second term in District 21. State Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, seeks another term in the 12th District; attorney Tom Hallinan, a registered Democrat, took out a petition in February. Sen. Tom Berryhill of Twain Harte is the Republican incumbent in District 14.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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