A tight contest for Modesto Irrigation District likely won’t be decided for two weeks.
Only 84 votes – among more than 3,400 cast – separated incumbent Jake Wenger and challenger Stu Gilman in incomplete returns late Tuesday night, making their MID race much too close to call.
With all precincts reporting, Gilman was ahead with 51.1 percent, but election officials may have dozens of late and provisional votes yet to count and by law won’t finish until Nov. 20, Stanislaus County Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan said.
Gilman, who owns a software company, tried to ride frustrations of electricity customers, while Wenger, a farmer, focused on his record of fighting the state water grab.
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Wenger, who turns 34 Wednesday, in 2013 was elected to the Division 4 seat representing northwest Modesto, Salida and Wood Colony. As of Oct. 21, Wenger had raised $7,373 in campaign money, while Gilman, 60, had loaned his campaign twice that amount, or $15,100, and had amassed a total of $25,369.
Gilman pledged to explore rebates for electricity customers forced to subsidize farmers’ water prices, and he criticized comparatively high wages for MID employees. He saturated the district with campaign fliers, letters and signs and knocked on thousands of doors.
A class-action lawsuit challenging the MID subsidy won’t be tried until after the California Supreme Court hears a case with similar elements from Redding, perhaps next year.
Wenger’s father, Paul, is president of the California Farm Bureau Federation and the younger Wenger was endorsed by four of Stanislaus County’s five elected supervisors: Terry Withrow, Vito Chiesa, Kristin Olsen and Jim DeMartini. Jake Wenger has been a vocal opponent of a state proposal to drastically reduce farmers’ share of the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers in favor of enhancing fish populations.
MID board members John Mensinger and Paul Campbell were unopposed.
In Oakdale, political newcomer Brad DeBoer outdistanced Grover Francis in an open race for Division 5 southwest of town, and Division 2 incumbent Herman Doornenbal easily turned aside challenger Don Taro in Division 2 north of Oakdale, including Escalon.
DeBoer won 64.6 percent of the vote. Doornenbal, a longtime resident of San Joaquin County, relied on strong support there while edging Taro in Stanislaus County; combined, Doornenbal captured 59.7 percent to keep his seat.
Tom Orvis, a farm bureau employee, claimed OID’s Division 3 seat when Steve Webb stepped aside after 31 years.
The balance of power on the OID board – known for dysfunction, bickering and lawsuits – depends on Orvis’ approach. DeBoer and Doornenbal are considered friendly to General Manager Steve Knell’s policies, including selling river water to wealthy outsiders, while board members Gail Altieri and Linda Santos frequently opposed the old guard.
In Turlock, water board incumbents Charles Fernandes, Joe Alamo and Ron Macedo kept their seats for lack of challengers.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390