Close of the polls

Tuesday’s primary election yields women as supervisors, congressional hopeful

Debra Lucero, Audrey Denney and Tami Ritter celebrate victories Tuesday night.

Debra Lucero, Audrey Denney and Tami Ritter celebrate victories Tuesday night.

Photo courtesy of Debra Lucero

When Larry Wahl won the seat of longtime Butte County Supervisor Jane Dolan, Supervisor Maureen Kirk became the lone woman on the five-member panel. That was eight years ago.

When voters headed to the polls on Tuesday (June 5), that changed.

Not only was the retiring Kirk, of District 3, replaced by a woman, Tami Ritter, a former member of the Chico City Council, but District 2 Supervisor Wahl also fell to his challenger, longtime economic development, tourism and arts impresario Debra Lucero.

Reached for comment Wednesday morning, Lucero, who took 54.6 percent of the vote, told the CN&R it was a long road to victory. She realized early on that unseating the established Wahl—a two-term supervisor and former member of the Chico City Council—would take name recognition and a good campaign. Lucero said she stepped up when she realized nobody else was going to do so.

“In terms of a female voice, we’re going to get two female voices,” she said excitedly.

Looking forward, she’s eager to work with the other members of the panel—she knows them and believes they, too, are committed to serving their constituents in a nonpartisan way. One of her first priorities: developing more cooperation between the county and its municipalities on major issues, including homelessness and public safety.

In District 3, Ritter ran against Bob Evans, who serves on the Chico Planning Commission, and Norm Rosene, a local dentist and winery owner. As of Wednesday morning, she had 53.3 percent of the vote, enough to secure the seat.

“I was not looking forward to a runoff election in November, so I’m happy we finished it in June,” she said. As for adding two women to the panel, “The more diversity we can get, the better,” she said. “We still have a long way to go in Chico and Butte County in terms of diversity—we have no people of color [on the Board of Supervisors]. This is definitely a step in the right direction.”

Ritter’s priorities are addressing homelessness, regulating cannabis, ensuring emergency preparedness and protecting North State water.


To challenge entrenched Republican Congressman Doug LaMalfa, North State voters chose Chico’s Audrey Denney by a decisive margin. Denney, a former agricultural instructor, got 17.5 percent of the vote in a field of seven, including four Democrats. Auburn attorney Jessica Holcombe finished almost 6 points behind.

LaMalfa, a rice farmer from Richvale seeking his fourth term, took 51.7 percent.

Denney awaited results on the patio of B Street Public House with Lucero, Ritter and Sonia Aery, who will face District 3 Assemblyman James Gallagher in November. She told the CN&R Wednesday morning that she sensed a positive outcome upon seeing the first returns from Shasta County showing her in the lead.

“Since the beginning of this race in January, I’ve had in the pit of my stomach the feeling that I could win in June and November,” Denney said. “That didn’t prepare me for what happened last night.

“Initially it was a moment of sheer joy—then, reflection. There’s a lot of work till November.”

Denney attributes her success in the primary to a broad base of support and “very professional campaign” operation. Her staff includes five full-timers and numerous volunteers; between them and her, she estimates knocking on 18,000 doors. (She received 18,840 votes.)

She also said she did not campaign specifically toward fellow Democrats. While she was one of just six California congressional candidates endorsed by the progressive group Our Revolution, she drew “farmers and ranchers who feel left behind by our representative.”

Added Denney: “The reason I’m going to win in November is I fit the district. I’ve been myself and trying to show the district—not [just] Democrats—the way I’m like them.”

County auditor-controller

While most of the local races had margins defined by election-day results, one remained too close to call definitively. Just 467 votes separated the candidates for Butte County auditor-controller as mail-in and provisional ballots remained uncounted.

Kathryn Mathes, accounting manager for the city of Chico, held the edge over Assistant Auditor-Controller Graciela Gutierrez.

County Clerk-Recorder Candace Grubbs told the CN&R that the Elections Office received a half-dozen trays of ballots from the post office Wednesday morning, on top of the mail-in ballots delivered Tuesday. She was unable to estimate how many ballots election officials had yet to count, though she confirmed the auditor-controller race was close enough to potentially be affected.

“It’s happening more now that people are hanging on to their ballot,” she said.

Grubbs has three days to finalize the count. She expects 70 percent of the ballots will have been by mail.

Mathes had 16,805 votes, or 50.6 percent, as of election night. A certified public accountant who made that credential the centerpiece of her campaign, Mathes previously worked in the auditor-controller’s office. Gutierrez, who cited her master’s degree in public administration, was at 49.2 percent.


In the race for county assessor, which grew chippy due to the politicking of challenger Randall Stone, incumbent Diane Brown handily retained her job. Brown got 63 percent of the vote to 36 for Stone, a Chico city councilman who serves on an assessment appeals board.

In mailers, on social media and at candidate forums, Stone blasted Brown for alleged campaign violations, an irregular assessment that went to appeal and as mundane a matter as calling a refrigerator a technological upgrade. He took a conciliatory tone on Facebook early Wednesday, offering congratulations.


Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (33.3 percent) will face Republican John Cox (26.2 percent) in the highly contested race to replace Jerry Brown as California’s governor.

A former San Francisco mayor, Newsom ran on a platform based on education, starting with prenatal care and including free tuition two-year community colleges and the addition of apprenticeship programs. He has promised to protect immigrants and the LGBTQ community and support the #MeToo movement by fighting for women’s empowerment and workplace equality. He supports health care for all, prison reform and affordable housing.

Cox, backed by President Trump as well as the California Pro-Life Council, is a businessman and CPA from San Diego. He has vowed to “take back California” by repealing the gas tax and “ending the sanctuary state.” Cox also supports creating business-friendly policies. Trump took to Twitter following the election to take credit for his part in Cox’s turnout: “Even Fake News CNN said the Trump impact was really big, much bigger than they ever thought possible.”


Prop. 68 (Natural Resources Bond): Yes

Prop. 69 (Transportation Revenue: Restrictions and Limits): Yes

Prop. 70 (Greenhouse Gas Reduction Reserve Fund): No

Prop. 71 (Ballot Measures: Effective Date): Yes

Prop. 72 (Property Tax: New Construction: Rain-Capture): Yes