Stu Gilman unseated Jake Wenger from the Modesto Irrigation District Board, according to final results from the Nov. 7 election, released late Thursday afternoon.
Gilman, a Modesto businessman, had held a slight lead over Wenger in periodic updates since last week, and ended 124 votes ahead of the one-term incumbent farmer. The vote count: 2,859 for Gilman, or a hair shy of 51 percent, to Wenger's 2,735, or 48.8 percent. The combined percentage doesn't account for 15 write-in votes for others not on the ballot.
Gilman attributed success to his message of paying attention to the frustrations of electricity customers.
"The main thing I heard on the campaign trail is that people are struggling, hurting and angry," said Gilman, who knocked on thousands of doors before the election. "I just think there are opportunities to make a difference."
Gilman had pledged to explore rebates for electricity customers forced to subsidize farmers' water prices, the subject of an ongoing class-action lawsuit. And Gilman far outraised his opponent, amassing $25,369, including $15,100 he loaned to his campaign, compared to Wenger's $7,373.
For the first time in memory, the MID board majority will be composed of nonfarmers, as Gilman joins John Mensinger and Paul Campbell. However, Campbell often sides with farmers Nick Blom and Larry Byrd.
Wenger, 34, had reminded voters, to no avail, that the MID board had not raised electricity rates since before he was elected in 2013. He provided a strong voice supporting local water rights jeopardized by a state proposal.
"I'm confident," Wenger said, "that the things we've done in the last four years put MID on a path to benefit ratepayers far into the future."
Gilman, 60, will represent Division 4, covering northwest Modesto, Salida and Wood Colony. He owns a software company.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390