Stanislaus County supervisor contest now 3-way

Former Modesto City Councilman Balvino Irizarry has joined a three-way race for Stanislaus County supervisor, facing incumbent Dick Monteith and former Modesto Mayor Carmen Sabatino in an increasingly busy June 8 election for state and local offices.

Three candidates will change campaign dynamics because of the possibility of a November runoff if none wins a majority of the June vote in District 4, which includes Del Rio and much of north-central Modesto.

Today is the deadline for races involving incumbents, while those without are extended until Wednesday. The June election has drawn more candidates than usual, generally attributed to a domino effect on several levels when U.S. Rep. George Radanovich and state Sen. Dave Cogdill announced earlier this year that they would not seek re-election.

The Monteith-Sabatino-Irizarry race is a mini-do-over from 2006, when an open seat vacated by former Supervisor Ray Simon also drew competition from former Modesto council members Janice Keating and Tim Fisher.

Four years ago, Keating far outdistanced the others in June with 34.11 percent of the vote, setting up a November runoff against Monteith, who captured 25.85 percent in June. But Monteith rallied over the summer and beat Keating in the fall by a mere 16 votes out of more than 23,000 cast.

Also-rans in June 2006 were Fisher with 17.41 percent, Irizarry with 15.47 percent and Sabatino with 6.5 percent.

"These are different times and it's a new race," Monteith said Thursday. "Only time will tell how it comes out."

Monteith said he expects to face one of the challengers in November but declined to speculate which would win more votes in June. Sabatino and Irizarry discounted each other, both predicting they will face Monteith in a runoff.

All three candidates on Thursday shared colorful opinions of their opponents.

Irizarry likened Monteith to an ineffective "bump on a log."

Sabatino said Irizarry is a pawn of powerbrokers who must have persuaded him to run in hopes of delaying an outright Sabatino victory in June. "That's just the way politics works," the former mayor said.

Emphasizing the use of an analogy and not real life, Monteith compared Sabatino to a well-meaning drunk, saying: "He may have a good idea but he negates himself because of the condition he's in. His DNA is he likes to fight. He enjoys the battle more than the solution."

Irizarry said Sabatino "works best when he's against something, not for something. We need solutions right now, somebody who will bring dignity to the board."

Irizarry was the City Council's first Latino, serving from 1987 to 1991. Sabatino also served one term, from 1999 to 2003, and Monteith, a former state senator, is nearing the end of his first term as county supervisor.

Irizarry owns a direct mail service in Modesto and has advised several political campaigns. Hard times in his own business helped persuade him to run, he said, because he's passionate about building the economy. Boosting small businesses may be the key, he said.

Other races

The county's other supervisorial race pits former state agriculture secretary Bill Lyons Jr. against certified public accountant Terry Withrow for an open seat being vacated by Jeff Grover.

Other county races include Sheriff Adam Christianson seeking re-election against Turlock police Capt. Rob Jackson; former Alliance Title division president Terry Harwell challenging Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan; Lauren Klein and Rick Dahlseid hoping to succeed retiring Auditor-Controller Larry Haugh; and Dave Cogdill and John McDermott squaring off to succeed retiring Assessor Doug Harms.

Also, a contest to succeed retiring Judge Donald Shaver features Nancy Williamsen, Martha Carlton-Magaña, Shawn Bessey, William Mussman, Philip Pimentel and Geoffrey Hutcheson.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at or 578-2390.

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