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Supervisor hopefuls aim to end strong

With no countywide, hot-button items to draw voters to the polls, Merced County elections officials are predicting only about a third of registered voters will cast ballots in Tuesday's primary.

Officials are expecting the highest turnout rates among voters in the county's 2nd and 4th supervisorial districts -- the only ones offering competitive races.

One other supervisor seat will be on tomorrow's ballot -- incumbent John Pedrozo is running for re-election in District 1 -- but that race isn't considered competitive. One late write-in candidate is hoping to push Pedrozo out.

The only other races that might have attracted voters -- primaries for the U.S. 18th Congressional District and for California's 17th Assembly District -- are also non-competitive.

"The (state Sen. Jeff Denham) recall might boost turnout a little bit," said Stephen Jones, the county's top elections official. "But like much of the state, there just really isn't anything that's going to bring out a lot of voters across the county."

Statewide, 70 percent of eligible voters are registered to participate in Tuesday's elections, according to the Secretary of State's Office. That compares to about 66 percent in Merced County, where 138,000 people are eligible to vote.

That means local elections officials expect about 30,000 people to actually cast ballots Tuesday.

Officials spent much of last week preparing the county's 64 polling stations and training its 420 poll workers, said Deanna Brown, the county's deputy registrar of voters. "Aside from delivering the actual voting machines -- that doesn't happen until election day -- we're pretty much ready," Brown said.

Most candidates in Tuesday's two competitive races -- the district 2 and 4 supervisor races -- said they planned to campaign through the final hour.

"I think we've done a really good job getting our message out there, but you always wish you had more time," said Hub Walsh, one of the five candidates running in District 2. "We're going to be working right up until the election encouraging people to get out and vote."

District 2 candidate John Alexander said Friday that he planned to spend the weekend talking to voters outside Wal-Mart, at local parks and in their neighborhoods. "I don't knock on doors because I prefer not to bother folks when they're at home, but I'll be out on my bike talking to anyone who's out and about," he said. "We're certainly going to be working hard in the last few days."

Alexander added that he planned to use e-mail and phone trees to urge voters to get to the polls.

The District 2 race is expected to go to a run-off in November; to win outright on Tuesday, a candidate must garner more than 50 percent of the votes cast.

District 2 candidates Casey Steed, John Price and Jim Sanders all said they planned to walk precincts in the final days before the election. "I always run every campaign as if I didn't have a chance," said Sanders, who is currently on the Merced City Council. "You work harder that way. ... I do have a pretty good feeling about things at this point, but we're still pushing hard to finish strong."

In the District 4 race, incumbent Deidre Kelsey said last week she wasn't planning to do much last-minute campaigning. "The radio ads are out there and the signs are out there, and at this point I feel confident that my constituents know what I stand for," she said. Kelsey has held the District 4 seat since 1995.

Her challenger, Claudine Sherron, said she plans to continue through election day with the same "grass-roots" efforts she's employed throughout her campaign. "I'm still relying a lot on volunteers to spread the word," she said last week. "And I'm still getting out there to talk to as many people as I can."

Reporter Corinne Reilly

can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or