Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo jumped out with a huge lead in his re-election bid in Tuesday's runoff election against his challenger, Merced County sheriff's Sgt. Jim Pacheco, in one of the most contentious and controversial local elections.
As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, having won 2,999 votes, or 61.81 percent, Pedrozo moved closer to securing his seat on the Board of Supervisors for another four years. Pacheco had 1,843 votes or 37.98 percent.
Pedrozo said Tuesday's election results were not without a lengthy battle.
"I'm ecstatic. We've worked long and hard since March and it paid off," Pedrozo said. "We've gone through trials and tribulations, but I love Merced County and I'm dedicated to my district."
The road to Election Day was paved with mud-slinging mailers, newspaper ads and press releases as the candidates pulled out all the stops in their fight for the District 1 supervisorial seat.
The two clashed on everything from public safety to the economy and the use of supervisor discretionary funds. But as he celebrated with supporters at De Angelo's restaurant in Merced on Tuesday night, Pedrozo said he's ready to put all the negativity behind him and get back to work, crediting his faith for getting him through it. "I'm just glad it's over with and I thank my God up above," he said.
During the next four years, Pedrozo said he "won't go back" on his words and will focus on the key issues highlighted during his campaign: job creation, public safety and early childhood development.
Pedrozo also stands firm in his support of the discretionary funds.
"I'm going to continue to do that no matter what," he said. "When someone asks me for assistance and the funds are there, I'm going to support them."
Pacheco spent election night with his supporters at the Pizza Factory in Le Grand, where he thanked his family and campaign volunteers for their hard work.
"I'm still remaining optimistic," Pacheco said. "This campaign has been a positive experience. I think we brought some issues to the forefront, and I hope Merced County will be vigilant about what's happening with their local government."
Pacheco said he's formed friendships during the campaign and will continue serving on several boards, including the municipal advisory council in Le Grand. He also plans to return to his job with the Sheriff's Department in the near future.
Only 38 percent of Merced County residents, roughly 99,000 people, registered to vote in this year's election.
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.