The blue wave didn’t wash up in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Across America, elections have been drawing large numbers of motivated voters anxious to make a local statement about what’s happening in Washington, D.C.
Either our area’s Democrats weren’t that motivated or not that aggravated. Familiar names, most often Republican incumbents, got most of the votes.
That might have disappointed reporters from Los Angeles, Washington and New York who came to Modesto to see if Republican Jeff Denham would be seriously challenged. While Denham got the lowest percentage in any of his four primary races, he led all candidates with 37.7 percent. If he had been the only Republican in the race, that would be significant. But a friendly challenge from former Turlock city councilman Ted Howze pulled in a surprising 14.4 percent of all votes.
There’s a slim chance Howze could face Denham in November. Howze trails 31-year-old Democrat Josh Harder of Turlock by only 850 votes. Meanwhile, all seven Democrats combined had 5,000 fewer votes than the two Republicans.
There are thousands of absentee ballots stacked at two secure locations in Modesto. It means a few candidates who appeared to have comfortable margins Tuesday night were getting nervous by Wednesday.
After the early-arriving absentee ballots were counted, it appeared Jeff Dirkse had all but won the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s race with 56 percent of the vote. By 2 a.m., that was down to 53 percent. This race remains in the stay-tuned category.
Elsewhere, incumbents and familiar faces did well. Tom Berryhill, a termed-out state senator, has 42.5 percent of the vote for Stanislaus County District 4 Supervisor, roughly 1,000 more votes than newcomer Frank Damrell. Maybe the blue wave will arrive when they face each other in November.
Incumbent District Attorney Birgit Fladager got 47.4 percent of votes counted so far, guaranteeing a runoff with one of her three challengers – most likely deputy DA John R. Mayne.
Tom Hallinan was tops among four candidates running to represent the Board of Equalization’s enormous district 1. He vowed to kill (if he can) the scandal-ridden agency.
It was a good day for the Withrow brothers. In Stanislaus County, incumbent supervisor Terry Withrow has a big lead in District 3 over surprising Modesto city councilman Tony Madrigal. In San Joaquin County, Pat Withrow appears on his way to becoming sheriff. Chuck Winn also looks like a lock to return as a San Joaquin supervisor for Escalon and Ripon. Ripon’s Measure A, which penalized older residents, appears doomed.
With so many votes to be counted, we can only congratulate those who ran unopposed – Treasurer Donna Riley, Clerk-Recorder Donna Linder, Auditor Kashmir Gill and Assessor Don Gaekle. But we will thank virtually all candidates for having run engaging, informative, vigorous campaigns.
“Politics ain’t beanbag,” said a newspaper columnist 120 years ago. Those asking for the public’s trust must be willing to withstand close scrutiny of their records and personal lives. Anyone squeamish about secrets, hidden agendas and associations being revealed shouldn’t get involved.
Now we get to do this all over again starting, well, tomorrow. In November, there will be fewer candidates and the races will all be decisive. Eventually, we’ll learn just who will be in them.
Will the “Blue Wave” finally appear in November? We’re guessing it will be more of a purple ripple.