Former Modesto Mayor Carmen Sabatino announced Friday that he intends to run for a seat on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, challenging incumbent Dick Monteith.
Sabatino, whose mayoral term ended in the cloud of a corruption investigation, announced his campaign by touting his record of balancing city budgets from 1999 to 2003.
He ran for the same seat against Monteith in 2006, but did not emerge from a four-way primary. That race took place shortly after he beat charges that he misused his elected office in a case that ended in a mistrial.
"I have paid a high price for the courage to stand up to numerous special interests on behalf of the working people, retirees and small- business people in the county," he said. "I am fully prepared to continue working for those taxpayers as a county supervisor."
Sabatino's entry into the race shakes up what looked like an easy walk to re-election for Monteith, a former Republican state senator.
"I was never supposed to have won any race I have ever won, and why should I have a free shot?" Monteith said. "Consequently, I expect someone to always run against me. Now we'll go into the race."
Sabatino has tussled with the county's political and business establishment for decades. That tack wasn't successful in his campaigns for local office in the 1980s and '90s.
It worked in 1999, when voters were concerned about development and ready to say goodbye to then-Mayor Dick Lang, who had served in City Hall for 14 years.
Voters are frustrated
That recipe could work again with a fired-up electorate that's frustrated with incumbents at every level of government. Sabatino in recent years has targeted Sheriff Adam Christianson, Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour and development interests in a radio program and on Web sites he runs.
"This time the climate is much worse for the taxpayers than it was in 1999," Sabatino said. "I think it's time we respect the taxpayers again."
But others argue that Sabatino will face a tough election, contending that his years in office were contentious ones for the city.
"He's not what I would consider to be of any benefit to the county as he was of no value to the city," said former Supervisor Ray Simon, a rival of Sabatino's who represented the Modesto-based seat Sabatino is seeking for 32 years. "It's just another foolish thing on his part."
Sabatino cozied up to another one-time rival in his campaign announcement: Supervisor Jim DeMartini.
Sabatino presents himself in the release as an ally of DeMartini's in opposing developer Gerry Kamilos' bid to build a regional industrial hub outside Crows Landing on the former air base there. Monteith supports Kamilos' West Park effort.
DeMartini, however, plans to stick with Monteith.
"Carmen sees a conspiracy on about every issue and I really don't," said DeMartini, chairman of the county Republican Central Committee. "I only support Republicans and that's the way it's going to stay.
"Carmen is a Democrat, so we've had more differences than agreements through the years," DeMartini said.
Bee Assistant City Editor Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.