At 4:05pm on Tuesday, June 14, almost a full seven days since polls closed on the 2022 California primary, the Monterey County Elections Office tallied up its final major batch of ballots. The roughly 12,618 votes narrowly changed the apparent fate of one county race and come close to resolving a question mark in another.
By a count of 23 votes, Regina Gage is edging out Salinas Mayor Kimbley Craig for second place in the race for District 2 county supervisor. Craig had enjoyed a narrow lead over Gage, a member of the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System’s board of directors, since early voting results were announced on Election Day, June 7, though Gage was never more than two points behind, in third place.
With only 13 provisional ballots left to count, and an unknown number of ballots that may have inadvertently gone to other counties, Gage was ahead of Craig, 2,164 to 2,141. (Efforts to reach Gage and Craig for this story were unsuccessful.)
If these results hold until the certification deadline of July 7, Gage will face fellow Democrat Glenn Church in the Nov. 2 runoff election. Church shot out to an early lead based on initial results and never looked back, always staying at least 10 points ahead of second place.
The results announced June 14 also confirmed a runoff for Monterey County sheriff between Marina Police Chief Tina Nieto and Sheriff’s Capt. Joe Moses. In one of the more surprising results on June 7, it appeared Nieto might win the seat outright, which requires over 50 percent – a high bar in a four-way race – but she holds 48.9 percent as of June 14.
“I really would like to just win it outright, and start to work on the transition,” Nieto said earlier in the day before the latest count was released. “If we have to go to November, I believe I will still win.”
Both of these elections reflect voters calling for change, rebukes of retiring Sheriff Steve Bernal’s endorsement (for Moses) and retiring Supervisor John Phillips’ endorsement (for Craig).
The Monterey County Democratic Party endorsed both Church and Gage, unable to choose one. “It’s a wonderful problem to have,” says party Chair Karen Araujo. “It’s what we were working toward.”
Another revelation is that Measure B, a Del Rey Oaks ballot initiative that would preclude most new trails in the city – thereby stymieing the first funded segment of the Fort Ord Regional Trail and Greenway (FORTAG), a 1.5-mile path through Del Rey Oaks – is almost definitely headed for defeat.
The measure was down by 15 votes in the small city as of June 14. It’s a major win for FORTAG supporters, and comes after a contentious, months-long effort by those both for and against the measure.
“This has gone on long enough that I’m used to being cautious, although it did make me smile,” says Scott Waltz, who, along with fellow CSU Monterey Bay professor Fred Watson, is the architect of the trail, which they’ve been working on for a decade. “I think I’m still going to have to wait awhile before I pop the cork on the Champagne.”
For Kim Shirley, a council member who’s helped spearhead the No on B campaign, the latest count brought immense relief. “Our hard work paid off,” she says. “It was absolutely worth it.”