Fresno County primary races come into focus as filing deadline hits

The Fresno BeeMarch 7, 2014 

Reedley resident Juan Sandoval waited until the final day to qualify for the June primary election ballot before mounting a challenge to Jim Yovino for the Fresno County schools superintendent position.

Sandoval's hustle provided the highest drama on Friday, but for the June 3 primary election, there's likely to be several other local races that will be more closely watched.

Tops among those will probably be the contests to fill the seats of Fresno County Supervisors Phil Larson in District 1 and Judy Case McNairy in District 4, both of whom are retiring. Several people are seeking their positions.

In Larson's District 1, the field is Kerman dairyman Brian Pacheco, Kerman Mayor Gary Yep, Mendota pastor John C. Flores, Frank Maldonado and Fresno City Council Member Blong Xiong.

In Case's District 4, community activist Magdalena Gomez, Riverdale farmer Ernest "Buddy" Mendes, Fowler Mayor Pro-Tem Daniel Parra, former Reedley City Council member Steve Rapada, Amandip Singh Gill and Alan Cade Jr. are likely candidates.

Since both Case and Larson are not seeking re-election, the filing period -- and final day to qualify -- is extended until Wednesday. As of late Friday, not all the candidates had officially qualified for the ballot.

While the wide-open supervisors races should provide plenty of jockeying, the battle for Fresno County district attorney could be the most intense.

Incumbent Elizabeth Egan, first elected in 2002 and unchallenged in 2006 and 2010 re-election bids, is facing one of her former employees -- Lisa Sondergaard Smittcamp.

At the Fresno County Superior Court, all eyes are on the seat held by retiring Judge Robert Oliver.

Attorney Charles Magill, Administrative Law Judge Steven Smith, federal attorney Rachel Hill, and Fresno County prosecutors Lisa Gamoian and Phillip Jarrett Cline are seeking to replace Oliver.

Also, incumbent Fresno County Assessor Paul Dictos is being challenged by Sanger Republican Michael Goossen.

At the Fresno City Council level, only District 5 incumbent Sal Quintero escaped a challenge.

In District 7, incumbent Clint Olivier has three challengers: Mike Wells, who is listed as an environmental health professional; Art Gonzales, listed as a real estate professional; and Mauro Saldate, an emergency medical technician.

In District 3, incumbent Oliver Baines could have up to four challengers: Eddie Rashad and Barbara Hunt, who have no ballot designations; Lisa Brewer, a retired supervising investigator; and Wanda Hemmitt, a retired staff analyst.

The District 1 seat has attracted the most interest, almost certainly because Xiong is termed out and can't seek re-election. There is a crowded field of seven seeking the seat.

They are manager Lawrence Cano -- who lost to Xiong in 2010 -- businessman/attorney Mark Castro, business owner Cary Catalano, businessman Rama Kant Dawar, mental health professional Rebeca Rangel, Jackson Shepherd, who has no ballot designation, and Esmeralda Soria, an attorney and legislative staffer for Assembly Member Henry T. Perea.

No one, however, topped Sandoval for Friday afternoon excitement. County Clerk Brandi Orth said Sandoval did everything required to join the school superintendent race in about three hours: pay the filing fees, fill out the paperwork (he passed on a candidate statement) and collect a minimum of 20 valid signatures of registered county voters before the 5 p.m. deadline.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6320, jellis@fresnobee.com or @johnellis24 on Twitter.

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