Pacheco didn't deny being against the project. "I don't think the project is being planned properly, and the jobs will come from out of the area and will leave after the project ends," he said. "It will be detrimental to agriculture and will cost jobs in the agriculture industry."
Both candidates said they support making the county more business-friendly and engaged in outreach to recruit new businesses.
Pedrozo said the county's planning department has been consolidated to streamline permits, building, fire, and environmental health under one roof.
"We're starting to see businesses come to Merced," Pedrozo said, referencing a Kansas-based company that's using Castle to build cranes. "With that, we're going to put people to work and start building up this economy." He admitted to layoffs of county workers, but said most of them were rehired when positions become vacant.
Discretionary fund is a sore spot
Balancing the budget and saving money is something both candidates said they can do.
Pacheco said he would look at each department to make sure tax dollars are spent efficiently; Pedrozo said he would continue streamlining and focus on job creation.
One thing Pedrozo said he wouldn't do is eliminate his $40,000 discretionary funds, because he uses that money to support various youth projects that couldn't be funded through the county, including food banks and the Boys & Girls Club.
"We need to look at this discretionary fund and how it's being used," Pacheco said, adding that he would forgo the money if he is elected. "I don't think it's being used properly, and we can find other ways to fund these projects,"
He added that Pedrozo contributed $5,000 from that discretionary fund to the high-speed rail project, which some tax payers may not support.
During a four-way primary election in June, Pedrozo garnered 48.3 percent of the vote, followed by Pacheco at 32.4 percent. Because no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two -- Pedrozo and Pacheco -- will face each other in a runoff.
Both candidates have faced personal difficulties over the past year of campaigning -- Pedrozo's father died, and Pacheco battled pancreatitis.
During the campaign, Pedrozo has criticized Pacheco for his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence last year, and then trying to collect $100,000 from the state's victim compensation fund because of the arrest.
"I wasn't driving under the influence that night and it will all be resolved in the court process," Pacheco responded. "Also, I wasn't asking for money from a victim's fund. I wanted to preserve a timeline for a court date for civil action, if needed. I've decided not to pursue anything, so that's all done."
Both candidates have contributed time to volunteer efforts: Pacheco is the leader of a 4-H club in Le Grand, and Pedrozo adopted six preschools and reads to youngsters there three times a year.
Both candidates said their campaigns are going strong and are not giving up until the end.
"I'm committed to bettering Merced county, and I can bring a new perspective that is needed in local government," Pacheco said. "I've lived in the county all my life and have family here; I'm trying to make things better for Merced county."
"I have the experience. I've done it. I've been on the board for eight years," Pedrozo said. "I love this job and I love the county. I'm approachable and I take pride in District 1."
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or email@example.com.
CAREER: Farmer, Supervisor
EDUCATION: Merced College and Merced High
FAMILY: Married, three grown children, four grandsons.
PRIORITIES: Public safety, job creation, early childhood development.
KEY POSITIONS: Supports creating new businesses and jobs in Merced County. Promotes transparency in government and advocates for well-paying jobs.
ENDORSEMENTS: Deputy Sheriff's Association, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Merced City Fire
HOMETOWN: Le Grand
CAREER: Sheriff Sergeant, Law Enforcement
EDUCATION: Modesto Police Academy, Atwater High School
FAMILY: Married, three grown children, one 12-year-old
PRIORITIES: Safety in neighborhoods, job creation, agriculture.
KEY POSITIONS: Supports economic growth and advocates suppressing gang violence.
ENDORSEMENTS: Farm Bureau, Merced Sun-Star