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Supervisor District 4: Voters give Supervisor Kelsey strong endorsement for new term

Incumbent Deidre Kelsey handily defeated newcomer Claudine Sherron in Merced County's District 4 Board of Supervisors race Tuesday.

Kelsey won 68.26 percent of the vote, garnering 2,366 ballots to Sherron's 1,087.

Kelsey, 52, first joined the Board of Supervisors in 1995 when she was appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson. Since then she's styled herself as a politician responsive to the needs of her district, much of which is unincorporated land.

Kelsey said that responsiveness is what got her elected again Tuesday night.

"I'm in tune with my district," she said. "I know people throughout the entire district, I know what they want and I know what they're concerned about, and I try to address their concerns as their supervisor and I think that's why I won."

Sherron could not be reached for comment after final voting results were reported late Tuesday.

Kelsey noted that the 68 percent victory is the best showing she's ever had. In two previous contests, she won 64 percent and 63 percent of the vote.

Kelsey said her top goals for her next term include providing more law enforcement in unincorporated areas, keeping the county's budget in good shape and working on "quality of life" issues such as programs to keep young people out of trouble.

She also said she's looking forward to continuing work on issues that she became involved in years ago, such as farmland preservation. Kelsey said it's been 17 years since she first tackled that topic. During her next term, she said she looks forward to creating new ag land preservation policies that will shape Merced County for decades to come.

"That kind of ability to touch the future is why I'm so excited to serve another term," said Kelsey from an election night party at the Elegant Bull restaurant in Delhi. "You really can make a huge difference in your community as a local official."

She added, "Yes, it takes so long to gets things done, but I'm finally well-versed in how things work and what I need to do to make it work. I expect a lot of productivity for my district over the next four years."

Sherron, a 39-year-old small business owner and substitute teacher, argued that District 4 needed fresh representation. She ran on a platform of promoting public safety and restraining development.

At a candidates' debate in early May, she said she wanted to create more municipal advisory councils in District 4 and that the county's high schools need more vocation training programs to help keep kids out of gangs.

During the campaign, Kelsey spent almost three times as much money as Sherron. Since January, Kelsey put together a $27,000 war chest and spent $14,000, according to campaign finance statements filed in late May. Sherron raised and spent about $5,000 total.

Kelsey's biggest contributions included $5,000 from Hilmar Cheese Co. and $1,000 each from Nyman Bros. Dairy, Fagundes Dairy and Carolyn and William Ahlem Jr.

Sherron collected most of her donations from individuals. Her biggest contributions were $1,100 from Stevinson resident Roberta Avilla, $500 from Michael Bettencourt, $300 from Mike and Suzanne Gurley of Carlsbad, Ariz.

The last time Kelsey ran, in 2004, her campaign spent $105,000 defeating challenger Lee Neves. District 4 includes the cities of Gustine, Ballico, Cortez, Cressey, Delhi, Hilmar, Snelling, Stevinson, Winton and portions of Atwater.

Reporter Leslie Albrecht can be reached at (209) 385-2484 or lalbrecht@mercedsun-star.com.

Reporter Corinne Reilly contributed to this story.

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