Supervisors race ready to heat up

A week ago the District Two Board of Supervisors contest looked like a one-man show starring former Merced Mayor Hub Walsh.

Now voters have a crowded field of candidates to choose from, in a race that pits political veterans against newcomers. After the final filing deadline passed Wednesday at 5 p.m., four other candidates had officially joined Walsh on the ballot: Merced County Health Care Consortium director John Alexander, building contractor John Price, Merced City Councilman Jim Sanders and electrical contractor Casey Steed.

Voters may not know which of these men will serve District Two until November. A candidate must garner 50 percent plus one of votes cast to win the seat in June, otherwise the race goes to a run-off election in November.

Walsh said he welcomed the more crowded ballot. “When you only have one or two candidates, the opportunity for dialogue is limited, but with five you have lots of perspective and opportunity for interaction with candidates that might not happen if there were just two,” said Walsh.

Both Walsh and Sanders have run multiple successful races for local office. The two served together on the Merced City Council for several years. Both also have politics in their family tree. Walsh’s sister, Susan, was elected to the Merced City School District Board last November. Sanders’ brother has worked on campaigns for state and national level candidates in California.

Among the newcomers, building contractor John Price said he had no particular campaign strategy planned to combat more experienced contenders. “I’m going to talk to as many people as possible about the things I’m passionate about,” said Price. “Hopefully enough of them will think it makes sense and vote for me.”

Price listed economic development as one of his top priorities, with an emphasis on promoting both large and small businesses and agriculture. “One of the best things government can do is get out of the way,” said Price, who spent 21 years as a dairy farmer.District Two encompasses most of the city of Merced and some rural areas to the south and east.

County elections official Stephen Jones said he expects less than 50 percent of registered voters to show up at the polls for the June election, which is the second of three trips to the ballot box Merced County voters will make this year. Jones said he expects November’s general election to garner the best turnout.

Two other supervisor seats are up for grabs in June. The candidate filing periods for those races closed last week. Incumbent John Pedrozo will run unopposed for the District 1 seat. Incumbent Deidre Kelsey will run against challenger Claudine Sherron, a small business owner and substitute teacher, for the District 4 seat.

District 3 Supervisor Mike Nelson and District 5 Supervisor Jerry O’Banion were both re-elected in 2006. They’ll remain in their seats until 2010.