Stanislaus County voters are casting their ballots Tuesdayin state primaries, a congressional race and contested elections for five county government offices.
The countys 158 polling places open at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m. But its not the only way to vote. About 33,500 of the countys 211,330 registered voters had returned mail ballots to the county registrar of voters by Monday afternoon.
Turnout has been 32 percent or more in previous gubernatorial primaries, but it may be lower this time with the tepid race for governor. In April, Gov. Jerry Browns approval rating rose to 59 percent, and he holds a sizable lead in polling over Republican challengers Neel Kashkari and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of San Bernardino County.
Going into election day, the GOP held the lead in voter registration in Stanislaus County, with 41 percent to 38 percent for Democrats.
Tuesdays primary will decide who will be sworn in to county offices in January. Incumbent Terry Withrow is challenged by Scott Calkins for the Board of Supervisors seat in District 3, a highly politicized area that includes Wood Colony, Salida and northwest Modesto. Incumbent Dick Monteith and Modesto Councilman Dave Lopez are running for the District 4 board seat, representing most of Modesto and a small part of Ceres.
Voters also will decide a contentious race between District Attorney Birgit Fladager and Modesto defense attorney Frank Carson. Carson has attacked the DA for her management style and for approving wiretaps for criminal probes that have not resulted in convictions. Fladager said she cant picture Carson as top prosecutor after he has spent many years saying terrible things about the District Attorneys Office, its investigators and other employees.
In another county race, two-term Sheriff Adam Christianson is opposed by deputy Tom Letras. Interim Assessor Don Gaekle and Turlock Councilwoman Amy Bublak are competing to oversee the county department that sets the taxable value of real estate parcels.
Monteith said he wrapped up his campaign after walking some neighborhoods Monday. Even though tens of thousands of people already had voted, the final effort was worthwhile because of the significant number of ballots that are hand-delivered to polling places on election day, he said.
It is going to be a low turnout, said Monteith, who was a state senator for eight years before holding county office. There does not seem to be huge excitement over the governors primary.
Lopez said he spent the lunch hour Monday phoning friends, family and others to encourage them to vote and then visited about a dozen homes of people who vote at polling sites.
The most intense emotions have been stirred in District 3 among Wood Colony and Salida residents who want to be removed from Modestos growth planning. Calkins, a high school teacher making his first bid for office, said he finished walking precincts Sunday, but Withrow and supporters handed out fliers in Salida on Monday.
Monteith appealed to voters in his district who are sympathetic to Wood Colony by running radio ads last week on Lopezs record on the growth issue. Katherine Borges, president of the Salida Municipal Advisory Council, and former Modesto Councilwoman Stephanie Burnside went door-to-door Sunday in the Sherwood Forest area of Modesto to support Monteith.
For the first time in a gubernatorial primary, voters can cast their ballots for office seekers regardless of party membership. But it wont determine who advances to the November election in Assembly or state Senate races in this area. The candidates are Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, and Democrat Harinder Grewal in District 12; Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, and Monterey County Democrat Shawn Bagley in District 12; and Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, and Fresno Democrat Paulina Miranda in District 8.
According to election officials, Republican Jack Mobley of Merced qualified as a write-in candidate in Assembly District 21, meaning a single vote for Mobley will put him on the November ballot against Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced.
In congressional District 10, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, has two democratic challengers: Michael Eggman, a farmer and small-business owner, and Michael Barkley of Manteca.
Officials estimate that 8,000 to 10,000 ballots will remain to be counted in Stanislaus County after election night, including mail ballots turned in Tuesday, provisional ballots and write-ins. Election workers need to process those ballots before counting them and will shoot to finish the tally before the weekend.