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Supervisor District 2: Walsh, Sanders head to runoff

Former Merced mayor Hub Walsh and Merced City Councilman Jim Sanders will advance to a November run-off election for Merced County's District 2 Board of Supervisors seat, voters decided Tuesday.

Of the three supervisor races on Tuesday's ballot, the contest for District 2 was by far the most competitive, with five candidates.

None succeeded in capturing more than half the votes cast -- the percentage needed to win the race outright Tuesday night. Instead, Walsh won 38.9 percent. Sanders claimed 25.8 percent. That means they'll advance to a runoff Nov. 4.

Eliminated from the race Tuesday night were John Price with 22 percent, Casey Steed with 7 percent and John Alexander with 5 percent.

"I'm obviously very pleased with the outcome," Walsh said Tuesday night, celebrating his win with supporters at Fernando's Bistro. "I think people were looking for a candidate with the experience, and that's why we have the results that we do."

Walsh, 58, served on the Merced City Council from 1995 to 2001 and as mayor from 2001 to 2005. He works in Madera County as director of its social services department, and spent many years in similar capacities for Merced County.

Walsh campaigned on the promise to improve public safety. He has also called for more open government, farmland preservation and responsible growth.

Sanders said he's looking forward to continuing his campaign.

"We knocked on a lot of doors and we talked with a lot people and it paid off," he said. "We're going to go even stronger heading to November."

Sanders, 61, was first elected to the Merced City Council in 2001. He was re-elected in 2005. He had run for city council in 1999 and lost.

Sanders founded and directs the Merced Community Action Network, a nonprofit that cleans up graffiti and runs Neighborhood Watch programs.

He campaigned primarily on public safety and economic development, calling for solutions to the local gang and drug problems, more open government and job creation.

Name recognition and their previous service on the city council undoubtedly contributed to Walsh's and Sanders' wins. Their three competitors came to the race with no political experience.

With $19,000 raised by late May, Walsh was the best funded among the five candidates, followed by Price.

Sanders raised about $12,000. Alexander, executive director of the Merced County Health Care Consortium, raised the least -- about $2,000 as of late May.

Alexander, who won the fewest votes, said Tuesday night that he had no regrets about running.

"No matter what happened tonight, I think we helped raise the bar with our campaign," Alexander said. "We can cry about public safety -- it is an important issues -- but we also can't ignore things like health care, education and the environment. ... Just by talking about those issues, I think we made a difference."

Voter Darrell Larimer, 77, said he saw few differences among the candidates.

"I had no strong favor for any of them, so I sort of just picked one," said Larimer, who ended up voting for Walsh. "I don't really know any of these guys. ... They all seemed the same to me."

Supervisor Kathleen Crookham has held the District 2 seat, which represents most of the city of Merced, since 1996.

She announced in March that she wouldn't seek a fourth term, opening the race.

It attracted far more than the other two supervisor contests. District 1 incumbent John Pedrozo ran unopposed.

Two candidates ran in District 4.

Whoever wins the District 2 seat in November will take office in January.

Reporter Corinne Reilly can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or creilly@mercedsun-star.com.

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