Voters repudiate Reade
Dolan, Houx retain seats, redistricting measure defeated, Reniff takes sheriff’s post
Butte County voters sent a strong message on Election Day that backroom, slippery politics would not be condoned in these parts.
With the re-election of Supervisors Jane Dolan and Mary Anne Houx and the defeats of Sheriff Scott Mackenzie and Measure B, the local electorate seemed to reject the campaigns run by political consultant David Reade.
Reade was the mastermind behind the effort to redraw the supervisors’ districts—Measure B—so as to cripple the political chances of the two female supervisors, to the potential gain of the three-member board majority, all men. The board’s last six months have been controversial, with charges of secrecy and behind-the-scenes maneuvering characterizing the redistricting effort.
“The three guys on the board set up a situation where they don’t know how to manage costs, they put their cronies in place, and the public is not invited to take part,” said Dolan, who handily defeated her opponent, John Merrifield, 65.1 percent to 34.7 percent in the District 2 supervisorial race.
“I think [the vote] sends a message, with B going down [59.7 percent to 40.3 percent] everywhere in the county, that it is time to stop making these backroom deals and start respecting people’s rights.”
Houx, who defeated Chico City Councilmember Steve Bertagna by a margin of 52.6 percent to 47.3 percent to retain her District 3 supervisor’s seat, agreed there was a message in the results.
“Whatever we do, we have to be sure that it is done openly, in public, not in some secret committee,” she said.
Reade was also connected to the campaign to re-elect the sheriff, an election that saw second-time challenger Perry Reniff defeat incumbent Mackenzie by a 20 percent margin.
Reniff’s camp, ensconced in the labyrinthine Depot restaurant in Oroville, was in high spirits on election night. They began to trickle away at about 10 p.m., convinced by then that Reniff had it in the bag. The few diehards who stuck around sat in groups of three or four, talking politics and quietly letting off steam.
One supporter, who may or may not have had too many Jack and Cokes, kept bellowing, “Mackenzie owes me a helicopter ride,” while the new sheriff-to-be huddled with his campaign workers in a back room, watching the results come in over the Internet.
The campaign hadn’t really ended for Reniff. He was still working the phones and shaking hands, even though by the time David Letterman replaced the news on the ballroom TV he was ahead by 8 points with half the precincts counted.
He said he felt good about the campaign he ran, despite having to hit Mackenzie with some pretty tough accusations.
“What I exposed is just what’s been written about in the papers,” he said. “It wasn’t me calling him a liar; it was just the reverse. I’ve been accused of running a mudslinging campaign, but I’ve just given examples of what’s been covered in the media these last three years.”
He said he hoped to “set up some kind of interim administration. They can bring me up to speed on what they’ve got going.” He won’t take office until Jan. 1, 2003.
Right now, he said, “healing the department” is his first priority.
At the traditional Republican election night hangout, the Holiday Inn, people chatted and snacked while keeping one eye on the online poll updates.
Even as Sam Aanestad lurched ahead of Dick Dickerson in the race for the District 4 state Senate seat, he directed his praise toward his supporters. “This is one of the best campaigns that I think has ever been run,” he said. “I feel like a winner all the way around.”
Aanestad won with 56.3 percent of the Republican vote, and an even-more-impressive 64.2 percent in Butte County. The Democratic candidate is Marianne Bopp-Smith.
Aanestad campaign consultant Josh Cook, a cell phone on one ear, stood ready to call the races once 40 percent of the returns were in. He was already thinking about the aftermath. “My job will be to put the party together again,” he said.
The Republican Party, especially in Chico, has fractured in recent months as members aligned themselves with particular candidates or for or against Measure B.
Cook said the defining issue here was taxes. “This is a conservative district,” he said, and there was no room in voters’ minds for candidates like Dickerson and Ostrander. “You don’t run as a moderate—you try to resonate with the people who live here.”
Meanwhile, down Mangrove Avenue in a shopping center storefront, educators, business folk and others gathered in support of Measure A, the bond to upgrade and add to Butte College.
The bond was 30 years in the making, said supporters, cautiously giddy as the early returns trickled in. The measure won handily in Butte County, with 66 percent of the vote where only 55 percent was needed. Glenn County voters also gave the bond their support.
Butte College President Sandy Acebo greeted her predecessor, Betty Dean, with an embrace. “I’m delighted that it’s even a possibility,” Dean said.
Acebo saw the showing as a sign that voters finally understood the school’s role in the community. “It’s such a fabulous college with such awful facilities,” she said. “That mismatch was apparent to me from the beginning. And I think it’s become apparent to the voters.”
As the clock edged toward midnight, rice farmer Doug La Malfa grew more confident that his strong lead would hold over other contenders for the 2nd Assembly District race. From his election night party in Richvale, La Malfa said he wasn’t shocked to be in the lead, but that he was so far ahead was “surprising.”
La Malfa said he campaigned heavily in all the communities in the district. (Competitor Pat Kight, of Redding, could have been a threat in Shasta County.) “I think most folks think of farmers as someone that you’re going to get a straight answer from.”
La Malfa got a whopping 74.3 percent of the vote in his home county of Butte and 58.9 percent overall. Kight got 22.6 percent.
At the Holiday Inn gathering, another 2nd District candidate, John Byrne, was coming to terms with his loss—at 10.6 percent of the vote—and pledging to stay involved in local politics. “I ran a clean campaign, and I’m happy that I did my best and I didn’t take any shots,” he said.
The Republican candidate for the 3rd District state Assembly seat, Rick Keene, also saw his strong win—58.6 percent against Dan Ostrander’s 41.4 percent—as proof that voters saw through negative campaigning by his opponent. (Keene did even better in Butte, garnering 67 percent of the votes.)
“Hopefully, it was because I had more of a focused campaign on what the issues were,” Keene said. Going from veteran city councilmember to new kid on the Assembly block sounds like “fun” to Keene, who wants to build coalitions in Sacramento. Also, he said, “I still want to be engaged in local politics. This is home. I’m not going to be moving or anything.”
Keene will face off with Democrat Stuart King in November.
Butte County voters, like those elsewhere in California, voted to send Bill Simon to face Gov. Gray Davis in November. Simon got 56.9 percent of the Republican votes here and 49.4 percent statewide.
Wally Herger will once again vie to retain his seat in Congress. He got 88.7 percent of the Republican vote.
All but one of the six propositions on the ballot passed, and Butte County voters agreed with their statewide counterparts on all but one of them: While 56.8 percent of California voters supported Prop. 40, protecting water and wildlife, Butte County voters rejected it, with only 46.7 percent voting yes.
Prop. 41, to modernize voting equipment, won with 51.5 percent of the votes statewide and 50.4 percent here. Prop. 42 will require that gas tax revenue be spend only on transportation-related projects. It won with 68.9 percent of the votes, 68.5 percent in Butte County. Prop. 43, which insures that all votes cast will be counted, won with 71.3 percent statewide and 74.9 percent in Butte County. Prop. 44, regulating chiropractors, won with 79.5 percent of the vote, 78.6 in Butte.
The losing proposition was 45, which would have allowed politicians to surpass term limits if their constituents petitioned to let them run again. It lost with only 42.2 percent “yes” votes, 33.4 percent in Butte County.
In other county races, District Attorney Mike Ramsey retained his seat by defeating defense attorney Dale Rasmussen (58.7 percent to 41.2 percent), Candice Grubbs easily defeated Don Illa (82.4 percent to 17.5 percent) for clerk-recorder, and Assessor Ken Reimers kept his job by defeating challenger Chris Baker (71 percent to 28.8 percent).