Stanis­laus ab­sen­tee bal­lots up 118 per­cent from 2016

The Modesto Bee (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY GARTH STAPLEY gsta­p­ley@mod­

Maybe Tues­day’s elec­tion has you giddy with an­tic­i­pa­tion. Or maybe you can hardly wait for an end to all the po­lit­i­cal ads and mail­ers.

Ei­ther way, the day of reck­on­ing is nearly at hand.

Soon we’ll know whether Jeff Den­ham will keep his seat in Congress, or lose it to Josh Harder. The out­come may af­fect whether Repub­li­cans re­tain con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., or lose the ma­jor­ity to Democrats.

Lo­cally, many through­out Stanis­laus County are in­trigued to see whether pros­e­cu­tor John Mayne can oust his boss, Bir­git Fladager.

Tur­lock vot­ers might hold onto their mayor, Gary Soiseth, or wel­come back for­mer Mayor Brad Bates, or pro­mote long­time Councilwoman Amy Bublak.

Peo­ple in north­west Modesto, Sal­ida and Wood Colony could re­tain Terry Withrow as their county su­per­vi­sor, or opt for a change with Tony Madri­gal, who would leave the Modesto City Council if he wins.

Other vot­ers through the heart of Modesto are say­ing good­bye to long­time county Su­per­vi­sor Dick Mon­teith, and will choose be­tween Frank Dam­rell and Tom Ber­ry­hill to suc­ceed him.

Also leav­ing his post: 12year county su­per­in­ten­dent of schools Tom Changnon, whose suc­ces­sor will be ei­ther his as­sis­tant, Scott Kuyk­endall, or Shan­non San­ford, su­per­in­ten­dent of the Gratton School District.

Lo­cal mea­sures in­clude two bonds for Modesto City Schools; mov­ing school board and city council elec­tions in Modesto to even years; and reg­u­lat­ing cannabis sales in Ceres, Pat­ter­son, River­bank and Oakdale.

In­di­ca­tors sug­gest un­usual in­ter­est, for a midterm elec­tion.

Since the last midterms in 2014, Stanis­laus County’s pop­u­la­tion has grown about 4.9 per­cent (to 555,624), ac­cord­ing to the Cal­i­for­nia De­part­ment of Fi­nance. But voter reg­is­tra­tion here has jumped 16 per­cent in the same time frame, prob­a­bly be­cause peo­ple are pay­ing more at­ten­tion to pol­i­tics and gov­ern­ment.

Maybe more telling is the num­ber of ab­sen­tee bal­lots al­ready re­turned to the county elec­tions of­fice. Shortly be­fore the midterms two years ago, 26,493 peo­ple had voted by mail; this year, as of Thurs­day, that num­ber had bal­looned 118 per­cent, to 57,836, a stun­ning in­crease.

High turnout his­tor­i­cally fa­vors Demo­cratic can­di­dates. GOP faith­ful typ­i­cally vote rain or shine, whereas Democrats show up more when they’re re­ally ex­cited or mad, whether at the pres­i­dent or law­mak­ers mak­ing de­ci­sions on im­mi­gra­tion, health care, water, Supreme Court com­po­si­tion or some­thing else.

Will height­ened in­ter­est help Harder, a Demo­crat, as he seeks the District 10 seat held by the GOP’s Den­ham since 2010? Their neck-and-neck (ac­cord­ing to polls) race is among the most-watched across the United States, and has pro­duced a seem­ing end­less stream of com­mer­cials for many weeks.

The Modesto Bee’s un­of­fi­cial count of mail­ers in the Den­ham-Harder race stood at 57 com­bined as of Thurs­day — with neg­a­tive hit-pieces out­num­ber­ing pos­i­tive mes­sages by more than 3-to-1.

Both have raised more cam­paign money than most oth­ers in 28 House con­tests else­where, all deemed toss-ups for seats cur­rently held by Repub­li­cans, ac­cord­ing to OpenSe­; Den­ham had re­ceived $4.5 mil­lion as of Oct. 17, com­pared to the $3 mil­lion av­er­age for other House Repub­li­cans in close races, while Harder had gath­ered $ 7 mil­lion, com­pared to the $5.5 mil­lion av­er­age for Demo­cratic can­di­dates in such races. And both par­ties and spe­cial in­ter­est groups are pour­ing mil­lions more into the fight, on both sides.

Re­lent­less neg­a­tive ads por­tray Den­ham, 51, as un­car­ing about pre-ex­it­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions and more in­ter­ested in en­rich­ing his cronies. Oth­ers cast Harder, 32, as a lib­eral aligned with Nancy Pelosi and the Bay Area.

In the bat­tle for DA, Fladager says Mayne’s lack of man­age­rial ex­pe­ri­ence can’t touch her 12 years at the helm. He wants to slow a re­ported ex­o­dus of pros­e­cu­tors seek­ing a more sta­ble of­fice en­vi­ron­ment, and to bring more ef­fi­ciency to an agency that’s no­to­ri­ous for a high back­log of un­tried mur­der cases.

Fladager was first elected in 2006, two years af­ter lead­ing the high- pro­file prose­cu­tion of Scott Peter­son, who was con­victed of mur­der­ing his preg­nant wife, Laci, and their un­born son. Mayne has worked in the of­fice 17 years and has been en­dorsed by both also-rans in the June Pri­mary: Patrick Ko­lasin­ski and Steven O’Con­nor. In June, Fladager cap­tured 48 per­cent of the vote to Mayne’s 23 per­cent.

In Tur­lock, Soiseth — com­plet­ing his first fouryear term — has a slo­gan of “clear vi­sion, bold lead­er­ship.” But he has been crit­i­cized for lead­ing a council that has al­lowed re­serves to dwin­dle. De­trac­tors say his over­bear­ing lead­er­ship style has cost Tur­lock two city man­agers, a po­lice chief, a fire chief, a city at­tor­ney and a city en­gi­neer. Soiseth also took heat for his role in the farm­ers mar­ket de­ba­cle that saw a for-profit mar­ket, headed by a rel­a­tive of the mayor’s most gen­er­ous cam­paign money donor, dis­place a beloved non­profit mar­ket.

Bublak, a for­mer Soiseth ally with 10 years on the council, and Bates, who was mayor from 1982 to 1990, both are mount­ing stiff chal­lenges. Jaime Franco also is run­ning. Tur­lock vot­ers ad­di­tion­ally will choose two council mem­bers.

Be­cause Mon­teith is step­ping aside, the county’s top elec­tive of­fice will see at least one new face. In District 4, Dam­rell has been work­ing on the staff of state Sen. Cath­leen Gal­giani, while Ber­ry­hill, a state se­na­tor the past eight years, is terming out; he broke a hip in July and was di­ag­nosed with Parkin­son’s dis­ease in Au­gust.

Madri­gal was re-elected to the Modesto Council last year. Withrow, known for ef­forts to ad­dress home­less­ness, ground­wa­ter con­cerns and op­po­si­tion to the state water grab, is seek­ing his third four-year term in District 3.

Other con­tests that have gen­er­ated far less at­ten­tion in­clude Assem­bly­man Adam Gray, DMerced, de­fend­ing his District 21 seat against Lib­er­tar­ian Justin Quigley; Demo­crat Anna Ca­ballero and Repub­li­can Rob Poythress seek­ing to suc­ceed state Sen. An­thony Can­nella, D-Ceres, who is terming out; and first­term Assem­bly­man Heath Flora, R-Ripon, against Demo­crat Robert Chase in District 12.

On Tues­day, peo­ple not vot­ing by mail can visit polling places from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Bal­lots of those vot­ing by mail will be counted as long as bal­lot en­velopes are post­marked no later than Tues­day and if they ar­rive by Fri­day, or peo­ple can drop off mail bal­lots at any polling place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tues­day.

Peo­ple reg­is­tered to vote by mail who didn’t re­ceive a bal­lot can visit a polling place on Tues­day and cast a pro­vi­sional bal­lot in per­son. An easy way to find the near­est polling place: my­polling­

Peo­ple who haven’t reg­is­tered to vote can still sign up Mon­day or Tues­day at the county elec­tions of­fice, 1021 I St. in down­town Modesto.

Many re­sults will be posted late Tues­day at mod­ Tight races can take sev­eral days to sev­eral weeks to sort out.

ANDY AL­FARO aal­faro@mod­

Kathy Styles feeds bal­lots into the tab­u­la­tion ma­chine at the Stanis­laus County Clerk Recorders of­fice in Modesto on Thurs­day.

ANDY AL­FARO aal­faro@mod­

Bal­lots re­ceived and ready for sort­ing wait in the Stanis­laus County Clerk Recorders of­fice.

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