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Merced County supervisor candidates try to create separation

The two candidates seeking a seat on the Merced County Board of Supervisors will make their last-ditch effort this weekend to win votes.

Jim Sanders and Hub Walsh both sent out mailers touting their leadership ability. Both will hit the pavement to make face-to-face pleas with voters. And both will air radio ads.

The race is expected to be close. The two candidates have raised about the same amount of money. Both boast past experience in Merced politics. Both have secured a hearty list of endorsements.

Sanders has spent about $35,000 on his campaign, Walsh $31,000.

They both put creating jobs and improving public safety at the top of their list of goals.

Their differences come more in the approach. Sanders says he's an outsider trying to get in. Walsh says he's an insider who knows what to fix.

This is the first time in a while that District 2 has been seriously contested. Kathleen Crookham has been elected to three terms, with one unopposed and another from a challenger who did little campaigning.

There may not be a clear victor Tuesday night.

Until then, the candidates will keep pointing to endorsements and asking for votes.

The Central California PAC, with Sanders' endorsement, spent more than $7,000 to send out an 8.5-by-14-inch color mailer with words of support by state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced.

With generic photos of a policeman, firefighter and a smiling girl, the ad says that Sanders "means jobs for Merced County."

The PAC, run by Bob Rucker, a longtime friend of Sanders, also supported Gary Frago and Joe Rivero for Atwater City Council in a recent mailer.

Walsh, meanwhile, sent out postcards with the slogan "Leadership that listens," reminding people to vote for him Tuesday. He also secured the endorsement of the Merced County Sheriff's Deputy Association, which ran a newspaper ad on his behalf.

Sanders has portrayed himself as a government outsider who thinks like a entrepreneur, not like a bureaucrat.

"I don't have any relationships to protect (with the county)," he said. "I came at it with a fresh start."

He said he does know the supervisors and many county department heads, but added that he'll still bring "change" to government.

Sanders' election team divided the district into 12 sections. He said he and his dozen volunteers have gone to eight of them.

Walsh champions his long ties to county government because he knows how it works and where there are problems.

"People understand that in tough times that familiarity will be critical," Walsh said.

His volunteer team, between five and 10 members at any point, has walked 95 percent of the district and will visit the remaining neighborhoods during the weekend.

Besides public safety and jobs creation, these candidates agree on one more issue:

With an election this close, every household counts.

Reporter Scott Jason can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or sjason@mercedsun-star.com.

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