Party of four

Ridge supes race most crowded among three district contests

The contest for Ridge Supervisor Doug Teeter’s seat is likely to go to a November run-off.

The contest for Ridge Supervisor Doug Teeter’s seat is likely to go to a November run-off.

Photo by Evan Tuchinsky

The Butte County Board of Supervisors could undergo a significant change June 7 with three of the five members facing re-election challenges.

Could, but likely won’t.

In District 1, representing the Oroville area, Bill Connelly is seeking his fourth term, and his opponents are two political newcomers: county employee Thomas Warner (who’s also an officer in the employees’ union) and recent retiree Ron Stoker.

In District 4, serving the south county, Steve Lambert is vying for his third term against one challenger, Mark Jensen, who ran in the three-way race in which Lambert won his first term with nearly 80 percent of the vote. He ran unopposed in 2012.

The tightest contest in the upcoming primary is in District 5, on and around the Ridge, if for nothing else than by sheer numbers. To secure a second term, Doug Teeter must best three challengers: business owner/musician Maurice Huffman, flooring contractor Dwight Grumbles and business owner Diana Wright.

Teeter was among four candidates four years ago who sought to clinch the seat of retiring longtime Ridge Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi. The first-place finisher, Town Councilman Joe DiDuca, did not receive the required majority of votes in the June election, so Teeter, by placing second (13 percent behind), advanced to a November run-off that he won easily (by 25 percent).

Coincidentally, Huffman’s wife, Robin, was among Teeter’s 2012 rivals—and she faced Grumbles in the 2008 campaign they waged (unsuccessfully) to unseat Yamaguchi. As if that’s not enough interconnection, 2016 foes Grumbles and Wright are cousins.

So, while his fellow incumbents seem relatively safe, Teeter may well have to sweat out his future through the fall. Huffman—aka Big Mo—not only has name recognition but also support of the Butte County Democratic Party. Wright has been a prominent opponent to commercial cultivation of marijuana, advocating for Measure A (which passed in 2014) and now Measures G and H (on the current ballot). Grumbles, akin to Connelly, has deep roots in the district.

That’s not to say Teeter is teetering. He touts endorsements by current and former sheriffs and fire chiefs, as well as the Butte County Farm Bureau. Plus, at the District 5 candidates forum May 2, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Butte County at Paradise Town Hall, he demonstrated a key perk of incumbency: inside knowledge.

To a question about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the three challengers spoke in varying degrees of generalities before Teeter delved into specifics about the county’s responsibilities and costs.

On the future of the Cal Fire contract, Huffman was asked to field the question first; he looked across the dais and, drawing laughs from the crowd, said, “You’ll have to ask Doug.”

As in the other candidates forums, the District 5 aspirants addressed public safety, salaries—most notably the supervisors’ vote regarding their own raises—and marijuana.

Discussed, too, was what role the board should play in the State of Jefferson movement for North State sovereignty, since Teeter sided with Lambert and Supervisor Maureen Kirk against a declaration of support. Connelly and Larry Wahl wanted the board to make the declaration. (Kirk and Wahl, Chico’s supervisors, have two more years before their seats are up for grabs).

The Ridge race is outwardly civil, but strong differences divide the candidates.

Wright said she has “the most skin in the game” because she’s fighting for her way of life. “I want to see Butte County thrive, see businesses relocate [here] and see this as a place for stable families,” she continued, which will happen “only if we hold the line against commercial marijuana growers.”

Huffman, who said he is deathly allergic to marijuana and so sober a musician that he “always had to be the one to drive the bus,” responded that he’s “learned over the years that [the cannabis business] is not going to go away” so he proposes working with growers to restrict cultivation to nonresidential areas and assess taxes to generate revenue for enforcement.

Of more concern to him: protecting water from fracking, expanding access to mental health services and improving Ridge fire escapes—the latter being long overdue, he said, since the 2008 Humboldt Fire.

Grumbles’ key concern is supervisors’ salaries; he pledged to return half the base pay to the district in the form of scholarships.

Teeter, twice elected board chair, deflected criticism and extolled the experience that comes with incumbency. He, like Connelly and Lambert, knows that Butte County government is a $500 million arm of the state with mandates to fulfill; in many cases, “you can’t tell the state to take a hike.” He also knows the tightrope supervisors walk balancing district interests with those of the county.

In the big picture, Teeter said, “if one wins, all win.”

Just not on June 7.