Madera County races wind up in fall runoffs

The Fresno BeeJune 3, 2014 

A host of hotly contested races in Madera County will go to fall runoffs as a result of Tuesday's primary election.

In final unofficial returns late Tuesday night, Jay Varney finished atop the race to be Madera County's new sheriff.

There were six men looking to replace retiring Madera County Sheriff John Anderson -- three from the Valley and three from the foothills.

With 76 of 76 precincts counted, Varney was in first with 31.4% of the vote.

Finishing second and qualifying to run against Varney is November was Madera County Undersheriff Michael Salvador with 21.9%. Finishing third was retired California Highway Patrol supervisor Dennis Fairbanks of Coarsegold with 18%.

Among the other popular competitive local races were district attorney and two supervisors seats.

In the race for district attorney, lawyer David Linn of Oakhurst finished first with 43.8 percent. He will face District Attorney Michael Keitz, who was second with 36.2 percent. Deputy County Counsel Miranda Neal of Raymond, the other challenger in the race, had 19.7% of the vote.

In the supervisors races, District 1 -- spanning from Fresno County to the foothills of O'Neals -- Mona Diaz received 24.4%. Diaz, the president of the board of trustees for Golden Valley Unified School District, will face a fall race against Gary Johns, who got 21.5%.

There were five candidates hoping to replace District 1 Supervisor Manuel Nevarez, who is not running for re-election. Finishing third was Brett Frazier, restaurant owner and former mayor of Madera, with 21.3%.

Incumbent District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler captured re-election with 64.7% of the vote, compared to challenger firefighter Paul Cliby's 35.1%.

Mostly rural District 5 covers more than half the county geographically, including the mountain towns of Oakhurst, Coarsegold and North Fork.

Polling places

After casting a vote at Liberty High School in Madera Ranchos, Bea Mulligan, 68, wasn't impressed by this year's local Madera County races: There's "no really outstanding candidates."

But, she said, major changes are needed on the board of supervisors: "I'm tired of these good ol' boys."

Mulligan takes voting seriously: "I think people need to participate, even in a non-national election year because otherwise you don't get to have a voice -- even though it's little."

Water is a major issue this election year, she said. Less water in recent years caused her family to lower its personal water well. "The next time we run out (of water) we have to drill, so that's a big, big thing."

At a polling place in Madera, Dewey Roon, 56, was hoping for a more exciting election.

Around 5:15 p.m., Roon said he was the 21st person to cast a vote at the Pan American Community Center. The balloting precinct had been open since 7 a.m. Most walking into the community center around the time Roon voted were headed to a Zumba dance class, not a voting booth.

"Fresno's got a lot cooler stuff going on with Smittcamp and Egan," Roon said, referring to that county's race for district attorney.

Voters were still trickling into the mountain area's Oakhurst Community Center on Tuesday afternoon when Shirley Moore, 77, placed her vote.

Donning her "I voted" sticker, Moore said she felt proud: Voting is "a duty of the American citizen."

Moore was most interested in the governor's race. The 52-year Oakhurst resident describes herself as a "very Republican woman."

"I voted for change," she said of her vote for Neel Kashkari -- a decision she said was influenced by a previously recorded telephone call from Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger in the 2012 presidential race.

As for the local races, Moore hoped to see District 5 supervisor Wheeler re-elected, and Linn take Keitz's district attorney seat.

Linn is a veteran and local attorney who's been in business for many years, "so I feel he does honest work," she said.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.

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