On to November

Whatever hostilities the active Chico supporters of Steve Westly and Phil Angelides had felt before Election Day, they established a détente cordial as soon as the polls closed. There they were Tuesday evening, fellow Democrats gathered together in Moxie’s Caf#&233; and Gallery downtown, rubbing elbows and grazing at an hors d’oeuvres table while waiting for statewide primary results to come in.

They came in slowly, but they consistently showed Westly outpolling Angelides in Butte County but falling behind him statewide. Locally, Westly got 51.46 percent of Democrats’ votes and Angelides 38.18 percent, but statewide the latter won 47.9 percent to 43.4 percent. He will challenge Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the November general election.

In the hotly contested District 3 supervisor race, Chico City Council members Maureen Kirk and Steve Bertagna were neck-and-neck all evening, with spoiler candidate Chuck Kutz far behind. The only real question was whether Kirk or Bertagna would squeeze out enough votes to get a clear majority and win the race outright.

Kirk almost did it. By the time precinct and early absentee results were in, she had 3,313 votes, or 48.79 percent, just over a point shy of a majority, to Bertagna’s 2,885 votes, or 42.49 percent. Kutz pulled in 585 votes, or 8.62 percent—not much, but enough to force a November runoff.

An unknown number of absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted, so there remains a very slight chance Kirk could take it all. County Clerk Candace Grubbs thought it unlikely, however. “I doubt they will change the results, even in District 3,” she said in an interview following the election.

In any event, Kirk is not sitting around waiting. Wednesday morning she ordered some billboards. “You have to reserve them way in advance,” she explained.

She said she’s going to take a break for a while and then get together with her campaign team and gear up for November. She believes Kutz took more votes from Bertagna than from her, and she expects more Republicans to vote in November, so she anticipates a tight race. “I’ve got my work cut out for me,” she said.

Bertagna did not return a call Wednesday morning asking for comment.

In other local contested races, Grubbs and Sheriff Perry Reniff handily won reelection.

Following a campaign that became the nastiest in the county before it was over, Reniff easily defeated Don “Hutch” Hutcheson, garnering 73.63 percent of the precinct vote to his opponent’s 26.12 percent. And Grubbs defeated challenger Linda Rhyne 82.26 percent to 17.55 percent.

Turnout county-wide was only 27,212 out of 115,855 registered voters, or 23.49 percent, but that figure doesn’t include absentee and provisional ballots turned in at polling places on Election Day. Lori Adrian, of the county Elections Office, said the goal was to have those counted by next week.

In the musical-chairs-style down-ticket races statewide, Democrats picked Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi over state Sen. Jackie Speier, 43.4 percent to 38.6 percent, to run against Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock for lieutenant governor. Democratic state Sen. Debra Bowen easily beat her fellow senator, Deborah Ortiz, and will face incumbent Republican Bruce McPherson in the race for secretary of state. Democrat John Chiang, a member of the Board of Equalization, will challenge Republican state Sen. Tony Strickland for controller, and Republican Claude Parrish, another member of the Board of Equalization, will go up against current Attorney General Bill Lockyer in the race for treasurer.

In the closely watched Democratic race for attorney general, the name recognition of legendary Jerry Brown, former governor and presidential candidate and now mayor of Oakland, was more than enough to defeat rising star Rocky Delgadillo, district attorney of Los Angeles County, 62.9 percent to 37.1 percent. Brown will face conservative Republican state Sen. Chuck Pachoogian, who ran unopposed, in November.

Name recognition no doubt also played a roll in carrying current lieutenant governor Cruz Bustamante, a Democrat, to victory over insurance executive John Kraft to run against Republican Steve Poizner, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, for the post of insurance commissioner.

In Congressional District 2, Democrats selected Dr. Arjinderpal Sekhon over clinical psychologist Bill Falzett to challenge Wally Herger, and in District 4 they picked Vietnam veteran Charles Brown to challenge the formidable John Doolittle.

In the races for Board of Equalization, District 2, Tim Raboy beat Tom Wright for the Democrats and will face Bill Leonard, who defeated Ed Streichman, in November.

One of the biggest stories of the evening had to do with Butte County’s new electronic voting system. Grubbs, who oversees the Elections Office as well as serving as county clerk-recorder, acknowledged that results came in slower than people probably expected, but that was because “we took the safe way,” she said.

Because of all the “hype in the press” surrounding the Diebold machines and because this was the first time they were used, all of them were trucked to Oroville before their electronic contents were unloaded. That slowed things down considerably. By November, Grubbs said, she hoped to have sites in Chico and Paradise set up where the results could be retrieved and then sent by fiberoptic cable to Oroville.

Otherwise, she said, she was happy with the way the election went, and in fact spent much of Wednesday morning going around patting her employees on the back. “This was a big step, to do something like this [converting to electronic balloting] in three months. Normally this takes six to nine months for a county our size. …

“I’m pleased,” she continued. “It took an army of people and a community of volunteers to put on this event.”