Unofficial results from Tuesday's Merced County election suggest sweeping changes for the Merced Irrigation District board while few registered voters ventured out to the polls.
As of midnight Tuesday with all precincts reporting, dairy farmer Suzy Hultgren with 642 votes was in the lead for the MID Division 4 director seat against incumbent Kevin Gonzalves and farmer Sam Sahota. Gonzalves sits last with 167 votes, while Sahota garnered 220 votes.
Farmer Bob Weimer appears to have beaten incumbent Billy Pimentel for Division 5 director with 63.3 percent of the vote. Weimer received 1,567 out of 2,449 votes, while Pimentel mustered 879 votes.
The MID Division 2 race was much closer, with special education teacher David Cole holding a 50-vote lead over incumbent Scott Koehn. Cole received 371 votes while Koehn received 321 votes.
Not everyone in Merced had a ballot Tuesday, just those who are in the contested seats' districts.
The unofficial vote totals don't include mail-in ballots received on Tuesday, provisional ballots and ballots that may need to be re-validated due to signature errors, Merced County Registrar of Voters Barbara Levey said, adding that she hopes to have results certified by Nov. 17.
"It was quite low," Levey said. "It's unfortunate, but I think it's not surprising given the little ballot. I don't think it motivated people to come out to the polls."
Poll workers at the Merced County administration building where voting booths for several precincts were set up said they saw fewer voters than in previous elections.
Turnout at some precincts was in the single digits, Levey said, noting that any given precinct usually has more than 300 registered voters.
Hultgren and Weimer both have advocated for bringing stability to the MID following several issues involving Gonzalves and the board.
In August, Gonzalves, a Winton-based almond farmer, was accused by MID staff of stealing water from the district for his orchards. Gonzalves disputed the charge, claiming he had rights to the water he pumped from Canal Creek.
A Sun-Star report in September revealed Gonzalves was convicted of a misdemeanor for defecating on public public property in 2009. He reportedly committed the act as revenge for being fired by the Stanislaus County Agricultural Commissioner years earlier.
"Right now, we have a lot of distractions," Hultgren said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I wouldn't be a distraction."
Hultgren said her focus will now be on fixing water rights issues with the state and federal government.
Weimer was in Seattle on Tuesday with family to witness the birth of his first grandchild. In a telephone interview, he said he wanted to bring more stability to the board.
"The type of conflict that has been on this board does not lead to a progressive district," Weimer said. "Part of my goal is focusing on the continuing water battle against the state."
Along with the three MID seats, one seat on the Gustine Unified School District Board was up for election.
In that race, firefighter Richard Smith gained 97 votes while realtor Wendy Montgomery was trailing with 43 votes for the Area 5 seat.