June 1, 2014

Merced voters face decisions in several key races

The primary election is less than 24 hours away and Merced County residents will have the opportunity to shape their government in several key races.

The primary election is less than 24 hours away and Merced County residents will have the opportunity to shape their government in several key races.

In one of the most highly-anticipated races of the year, voters will choose between four candidates vying to be the county’s next sheriff – Pat Lunney, 66; Frank Swiggart, 47; Vern Warnke, 55; and Jim Soria, 45.

Lunney has been chief of investigations for the Merced County District Attorney’s Office since 2008. He also served as chief of the Merced Police Department for 15 years. Swiggart is head of the Merced College Police Department, which is operated by the Sheriff’s Department.

Warnke is a retired senior sergeant and part-time deputy for the Sheriff’s Department. Soria is a member of the Livingston City Council and a security supervisor with Guardsmark, assigned to the E.&J. Gallo Winery in Livingston.

The Merced County sheriff-coroner seat was vacated when Mark Pazin left office in December after more than a decade to accept a position in Sacramento with Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration. Pazin’s undersheriff, Tom Cavallero, was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to complete the final year of Pazin’s term.

Cavallero, 49, announced he would not seek election.

District 3 Supervisor Linn Davis, 70, is being challenged by three people – Tony Dossetti, 64; Daron McDaniel, 49; and William Snyder III, 50..

Snyder works as a dairy manager; Dossetti is a retired police chief and a Merced City councilman; and McDaniel is a congressional aide to Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock.

District 3 covers the areas of Atwater, north Merced, Franklin-Beachwood and McSwain.

Merced County Treasurer Tax-Collector Karen Adams, 56, is seeking re-election after more than 10 years in office. Adams, who was elected in 2002, will be challenged by Richard St. Marie, the director of administrative services at the Sheriff’s Department.

Adams ran unopposed in the 2006 and 2010 elections. St. Marie, 48, announced his candidacy for the treasurer-tax collector office in late March.

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, also is seeking re-election. Costa represents the 16th Congressional District, which includes all of Merced County. He is being challenged by Johnny Tacherra, Joanna Garcia-Botelho, Mel Levey, Job Melton and Steve Crass.

Crass, 40, was a deputy district attorney in Merced County, and then an assistant U.S. attorney in Fresno’s federal courthouse before moving into private practice. Levey, 29, of Merced is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and has served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Garcia-Botelho, 29, is listed as chief executive officer of LJB Farms and owner of Joey’s Well Drilling & Construction. Melton, 40, is a mental health clinician.

Tacherra, 38, a dairyman and business owner, sought to challenge Costa two years ago.

Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, is seeking a second term in District 21. He will be challenged by a Republican write-in candidate, Jack Mobley, who owns a janitorial franchise.

State Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, seeks another term in the 12th District. Cannella will run against challenger Shawn Bagley.

Several Merced County officials won’t face opposition in the primary election. They are District Attorney Larry Morse II, Superintendent of Schools Steve Gomes, Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder Barbara Levey, Auditor-Controller Lisa Cardella-Presto and District 5 Supervisor Jerry O’Banion.

A number of local measures will be on Tuesday’s ballot: Measure L, the Merced River School District bond; Measure M, the Merced City Elementary School District bond; Measure N, the Le Grand Union High School District bond; and Measure O, the Planada Elementary School District bond.

Measure M, which has been in the spotlight, promises to repair K-8 schools by fixing leaky roofs, faulty electrical systems and removing asbestos and lead paint, according to the “Vote Yes on M” website.

Local school measures require 55 percent or more of the vote to pass.

The county offices require 50 percent plus one vote to win the June primary election; otherwise, the top two candidates will face off in the November election.

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