A Running Start
Three Supes up for re-election face early competition, negative campaigns.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Byrl Smith has kicked off the year by walking the streets of Seaside, Marina and South Salinas for up to five hours a day and knocking on doors.
As the widow of former County Supervisor Jerry Smith, she’s already got name recognition in District 4. But her campaign manager, Rick Taylor of L.A.-based Dakota Communications, says meeting voters face-to-face is the centerpiece of her strategy this month.
While Smith already has a campaign headquarters set up on Broadway in Seaside, incumbent Jane Parker plans to begin campaigning in February.
“I think I’ve really established myself as someone people know to be thoughtful and fair, even if they don’t agree with me on every issue,” Parker says. “I think I come across as someone who’s for real. What I say I care about, I really believe.”
Taylor, who responded for Smith, says Parker has stalled economic growth: “She reminds me of what the Tea Party has been representing in Washington, the ‘no’ party.”
Parker estimates this race, like the 2008 District 4 contest, will cost about $350,000.
A less well-funded race in District 1, comprising most of urban Salinas, is also heating up. Salinas city councilmembers Sergio Sanchez and Tony Barrera both begin walking the streets this week in their challenges to Supervisor Fernando Armenta.
Even as he faces a well-funded 11-year incumbent—Armenta had accumulated $90,000 in campaign funds as of June 30, according to his most recent finance statement—Barrera is confident.
“I have $500 something,” he says. “But I ran against a 13-year incumbent at City Council. I’m not intimidated by that.”
The District 5 race, covering the south Monterey Peninsula, Carmel Valley and Big Sur, has yet to heat up. Two prospective challengers to incumbent Dave Potter are reportedly on the fence.
Retired Army officer Scott Dick, who filed papers a year ago to begin fundraising for a run at the seat, isn’t sure he’ll go further. He made an unsuccessful bid for the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District board last November. “I still have campaign fatigue from the last one,” he says.
Retired Pacific Grove Police Chief Carl Miller, who sits on the Monterey Regional Airport board, plans to decide whether to enter the race by Jan. 13. Though the Peninsula’s far-left environmental contingent has so far failed to produce a challenger to Potter, Miller, a Republican, says he could fill that role: “I’ve spent 30 years, I like to think, protecting the environment.”
While the candidates all pledge to avoid negativity, Parker has already chided supporters for circulating emails that raise concerns about Smith’s health.
Smith suffers froma chronic medical condition. Parker says it’s irrelevant, and Taylor, Smith’s campaign manager, agrees. “I’ve been in campaigns for 38 years, and I’ve never heard any campaign go in that direction,” he says. “I’m honestly repulsed by even the question.”
What’s a Voter Worth?
Even after the U.S. Department of Justice approved painstakingly redrawn Monterey County district lines—designed to accurately reflect population data—in October, not all districts are created equal. District 1, which includes most of the city of Salinas, is left with 60 percent fewer voters than District 5, which covers much of the Monterey Peninsula.
Redistricting assumes a “one person, one vote” equation based on population; each Monterey County district encompasses roughly 80,000 residents. But since children, undocumented immigrants and voluntary non-voters are included, the number of voters per district is uneven.
Board of Supervisors candidates have the option of filing signatures in lieu of the $1,179.03 filing fee (1 percent of the annual supervisor salary). With barely 20,000 voters in District 1, each petition signature is worth 59 cents; it takes 2,005 signatures to waive the filing fee. In District 4, at 36 cents apiece, it takes 3,252 signatures. And in District 5, with 50,000 registered voters at 25 cents each, candidates need 4,716 signed backers.
NUMBER OF REGISTERED VOTERS:
District 1: 20,004
District 2: 33,163
District 3: 21,579
District 4: 32,472
District 5: 50,099
“It always happens to be that way,” says Linda Tulett, Monterey County registrar of voters. “It could be due to just the type of folks that live [in District 5].”
Tulett says she plans to hire a bilingual outreach organizer to boost local voter registration. Among the myths to bust, she says, is that presidential elections are the only ones worth showing up for. “It’s funny how people think that one is the biggest, when your one vote is so blended with billions of them. The local one, for your school board or water board or city—that is probably the most important.”
As of the Weekly’s deadline, the only candidates who had picked up signature-in-lieu petitions were the District 1 contenders, Supervisor Fernando Armenta and Salinas City Councilmembers Tony Barrera and Sergio Sanchez. They have until February 23 to submit signatures.