On to November
Primary ends in three general election face-offs, other contests decided
Butte County voters made a decisive statement about fracking during the California primary Tuesday (June 7)—with sentiment so strong that it may have influenced another race on the ballot.
Measure E, the initiative to ban hydraulic fracturing countywide, received overwhelming support: 71.5 percent, per election-night results.
Musician-turned-politician Maurice “Big Mo” Huffman vocally endorsed Measure E during his campaign for a seat on the Board of Supervisors. That policy position distinguished him from District 5 incumbent Doug Teeter and the other two challengers, Dianna Wright and DH Grumbles.
Whether coincidence or not, Huffman emerged from election night with a 112-vote edge over Wright; should the advantage hold, upon certification of the election in 30 days, Huffman will face Teeter in a November run-off.
Wright, incidentally, wholeheartedly supported the two other local initiatives, Measures G and H, both related to medical cannabis. Measure G excludes marijuana from the Right to Farm act; Measure H imposes enforcement strictures on Measure A, the medical marijuana cultivation ordinance that Wright championed in the 2014 election.
Measure G drew 59.5 percent support; Measure H 58.5 percent.
Since Measure A represents the extent of Wright’s political background before her “first official race,” she said Wednesday morning that she doesn’t have “enough experience to judge” whether late mail-in ballots and a recount would change the election-day outcome.
“I’m very encouraged; it’s not over till it’s over,” Wright said by phone.
Huffman said Wednesday morning that he intended to use the time between now and November to learn more about county government operations, through additional site visits and job shadowing. He discounted criticisms about his institutional knowledge, particularly in comparison to Teeter. “The experience of the incumbent shouldn’t come into play, because how can you avoid it?” Huffman said.
Rather than the grassroots approach of the primary, he said he will “really have to put in a campaign this time—lots of volunteers, funding—and go for it.”
Teeter, too, plans to step up his campaigning. He received 47 percent of the vote—shy of the 50 percent plus one vote needed to avoid the run-off—compared to 21.4 percent for Huffman, 20.4 percent for Wright and 11 percent for Grumbles (Wright’s cousin and a 2008 candidate). The incumbent considers his finish “a strong showing, and I’m really excited that voters of District 5 have confirmed what I’ve done for them, and that’s the most important thing. Now that [the field] won’t be so diluted, I can go to work on winning in November.”
As for the Measure E distinction, Teeter defends his opposition to the initiative as written. He noted he voted in favor of a use permit supervisors imposed on fracking operations.
“Hopefully it [Measure E] doesn’t get litigated,” Teeter said, “but if it does, rest assured I have my marching orders, and I will follow what the majority of Butte County wanted.”
As for the other supervisor races, incumbents Bill Connelly and Steve Lambert took home the most votes in their districts, earning enough to secure victories in the primary.
Measure E had no formal opposition and was endorsed by both CN&R and the Chico Enterprise-Record.
Dave Garcia, spokesman for Frack-Free Butte County, the group that backed the measure, appeared undaunted by any concerns that the local fracking ban will face legal challenges. “Basically, my feeling is you cross that bridge when you come to it,” he said Tuesday evening.
He also noted that the county supervisors had an opportunity to pass a different version—one vetted by county counsel—and failed to do so. “They walked away from it,” he said.
The group initially attempted to get Measure E on the 2014 general election ballot. The fact that it got pushed back 18 months actually worked in the group’s favor, he said. That’s because fracking has been in the news cycle repeatedly, both locally and nationally, during that time. “There’s so much more scientific evidence of how bad it is now than there was then,” Garcia said.
The other two measures on the primary ballot were supported by law enforcement and passed overwhelmingly as well.
The county wanted to exempt medical marijuana from the Right to Farm act in response to a new state law that qualifies the plant as an agricultural commodity. That was Measure G. Measure H amends the county’s existing medical marijuana cultivation ordinance—Measure A—to make it easier for code enforcement to levy and collect fines associated with noncompliant grows.
Both measures were originally passed by the Board of Supervisors and made it to the ballot after the Inland Cannabis Farmers’ Association gathered the required signatures of county voters. The aim was to overturn them. The group believes the county is overzealous in its use of Measure A—citing, among other things, the fact that sheriff’s deputies are often the ones tipping off code enforcement. The law was supposed to be driven by complaints—meaning officers would investigate only if a neighbor complained formally.
Jessica MacKenzie, who heads ICFA, told CN&R she’s disappointed in the outcome at the polls but not deterred from her efforts to educate the public about the validity of medical cannabis.
“What I believe to be true is that it just means we have more work to do,” she said. “The work we’re doing is to bring the truth about cannabis farming to the public. If they shared that truth, the barriers would fall.”
MacKenzie said she isn’t sure the public fully understood what they were voting on with Measures G and H. She suspects, due to the complexity of the ballot language, that there was a lot of confusion.
As to her forthcoming efforts, MacKenzie and the cannabis group are spearheading yet another medical cannabis ballot measure to “regulate the entire product cycle, from the time a plant goes into the ground until a patient acquires it,” as she put it (see “Watch out, Measure A,” Downstroke, page 8).
The District 1 Congressional race wound up yielding no election-night drama, despite an eventful campaign. Incumbent Doug LaMalfa of Richvale easily outdistanced his prime Republican rival, Chico’s Joe Montes, and will replay the 2012 general election in which he first won his seat. He’ll face Jim Reed, a Democrat from Redding.
California’s top-two primary means there’s no guarantee opposing major parties square off in November. In fact, for U.S. Senate, two Democrats (Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez) will compete. But LaMalfa took 40.3 percent, Reed 29.1 and Montes 17.2 to lead a seven-man field.
LaMalfa and Montes bandied controversial mailers in the campaign’s final weeks, polarizing local Republicans. LaMalfa’s were viewed as especially dirty. Reed wound up edging LaMalfa in Butte County (34.4 percent to 33.2), while Butte was Montes’ best county (22.5).
Reached Wednesday morning by phone, Montes said he believes LaMalfa’s smear campaign worked.
“It was definitely a huge blow to our momentum,” he said.
As for what’s next, Montes said he was heading out of town for some needed respite. He’ll decide over the next few months whether to pursue politics and in what capacity—“in front of the camera or behind it,” as he put it.
Montes also put to rest theories about his intentions to run for local office, especially at the city level. “I don’t have any interest in running for City Council. That’s a rumor.”
Howard Hardee contributed to this report.