Sgt. Juan Alanis has not parted with the hope of scoring an upset in the race for sheriff in Stanislaus County.
About 48 percent of the ballots remain to be counted in the contest between the political upstart and another first-time candidate, Lt. Jeff Dirkse, who was supported by the incumbent sheriff, Adam Christianson.
As of Thursday, Dirkse held a 53 percent to 47 percent lead in the far-from-complete results.
“We have a good chance,” Alanis said Thursday. He said he was encouraged by the comments he heard visiting homes and businesses during his campaign and on social media. “I think people truly believe it is time for a change. Some people want new blood and want a sense of community back in our department.”
Alanis trails by 2,683 votes in the countywide race after a tally of 46,195 ballots and has a lot of ground to make up. The county elections office said Wednesday that 42,225 vote-by-mail and provisional ballots remained to be processed and counted.
Dirkse said he has remained confident since jumping out to a wider lead in the early returns Tuesday night. "We are obviously following any results carefully and we are waiting to see where it ends up," he said.
The lieutenant needs about 44 percent of the uncounted votes to maintain the lead and become the next sheriff.
In a contest in which the candidates' names weren't so easy to pronounce, Dirkse outspent his opponent by more than 2 to 1. In campaign materials, the chief of police services in Patterson claimed he was better prepared to lead the Sheriff's Department based on his military service and leadership.
Alanis, which is pronounced al-a-niece, promised to restore community policing and improve employee relations in the department after a dozen years of Christianson's management.
Some who followed the race noted that Alanis took eight weeks of vacation time to walk precincts and attend meet-and-greets, while Dirkse, pronounced derksee, primarily worked full-time in the months before Election Day.