Three candidates hoping to represent the south county on the board of supervisors will present their credentials and priority positions at a forum hosted by the Tracy Press.
Taking the stage will be Tom Benigno, a local farmer who is making his second run in as many campaigns for a seat on the board; Rhodesia Ransom, who sits on the Tracy Planning Commission and has served two years on the county’s civil grand jury; and Bob Elliott, a member of the Tracy City Council.
The free forum is a chance for members of the public to hear the candidates answer questions on public policy, and ask some questions of their own.
Audience members can submit questions either at the forum, which will be moderated by a representative of the Tracy Press, or in advance by emailing tpnews@tracy
All three candidates seek to replace termed-out Supervisor Leroy Ornellas.
If any one garnered more than 50 percent of the vote during the June 5 primary, he or she would automatically earn the seat.
Elliott: Building a coalition
Elliott, a former Green Beret and colonel in the U.S. Army, first won elected office in 2010, when he ran for a seat on the City Council.
He has said his priorities as supervisor would be much the same as on the council: grow the economy, support public safety and protect local agriculture.
Endorsements from local leaders have flowed Elliott’s way in spades, with Tracy Mayor Brent Ives, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Maciel, Sheriff Steve Moore, Mountain House directors Bernice King Tingle and Celeste Farron and outgoing supervisor Ornellas all saying Elliott was their choice to represent the south county.
The local farm bureau also gave him the stamp of endorsement Thursday, April 12.
He has received strong monetary support, too. Between Jan. 1 and March 17, Elliott’s campaign received just shy of $30,000 in cash contributions.
His biggest donations were from the Wantanabe farming family, whose various members kicked in a combined $4,600, according to finance documents filed with the San Joaquin County Registrar.
He also received $1,500 from a Los Angeles-based limited liability corporation and $1,000 each from Vascorp; Matthew Arnaiz of Arnaiz Development; Howard Arnaiz of H.D. Arnaiz Corp.; Roger Elissagaray of Elissagaray Farms; Waste Management of North America; Armorto Partners LLC, which according to CorporationWiki.com has connections to the H.D. Arnaiz Corp.; and local attorney Steve Nicolaou.
Ransom: Banking on public safety
Ransom, meanwhile, has received just less than $10,000 in cash contributions.
Campaign finance records show that about $2,450 was contributed to Ransom’s campaign by small donors via Democracy Engine LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based software platform that can be used by organizations and individuals to raise funds in support of candidates, goals and initiatives, according to its website.
Ransom also collected $250 each from Oakland City Councilwoman Libby Schaaf; McDonald’s regional manager Cynthia Okwudiri; and Tracy physician Brenda Malone.
So far, the campaign has been tough but rewarding, Ransom said.
“People are great and very encouraging,” she said. “It’s a learning experience. It’s exciting, because the people that I’m meeting are very receptive.”
She, like Elliott, claims several endorsements. Her biggest are from the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Association, San Joaquin Correctional Officers, County Probation Officers Association, Deputy Sergeants Association and State Coalition of Probation Organizations.
Ransom thinks her work with getting anti-gang education into the Tracy Unified School District made a big difference when it came to the public safety endorsements.
“I came up with a concept, had the Department of Justice and the ATF come out … and talked about how we could get this program implemented using volunteer probation officers,” Ransom said, adding that she worked with then-Tracy police Chief Janet Thiessen and the city to develop the program.
Though it was modified a bit by Chief Gary Hampton, Ransom said the plan was still helping reduce violence and help kids stay away from gangs.
“(It shows) the importance of public safety as part of this particular time in this community,” she said.
Benigno: Budgetary focus
Benigno, meanwhile, has pushed for more debates between the candidates, and said he was doing everything possible to get his message out to the voters.
A longtime south-county farmer, Benigno has run for several local offices, including mayor of Tracy and congressman, and was once an elected member of the San Joaquin County Republican Central Committee.
If elected to the county board, Benigno said his first order of business would be to sit down with his fellow supervisors, listen to them and hammer out a budget.
“It’s going to be like putting a round peg in a square hole,” Benigno said of the budget process. “It’s going to be the top priority for all members.”
According to his website, the main planks of Benigno’s platform are ensuring the county’s fiscal health, growing the local economy by boosting agriculture and expanding the county’s hospital.
He also supports a peripheral canal or tunnel that would pump water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and ensure a more stable supply for Central Valley farmers and Southern California.
Benigno contended that a canal would provide a major influx of jobs for the area — possibly as many as 1,000 over five years — which he said was desperately needed in an area hit hard by foreclosures and unemployment. A 2011 estimate by the Delta Protection Commission countered that a proposal for such a canal could cause between $50 million and $200 million in damage to San Joaquin County agriculture.
Through March 17, Benigno had raised no campaign contributions, according to the county registrar’s office.
At a glance
• WHAT: San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors District 5 forum, featuring Tom Benigno, Bob Elliott and Rhodesia Ransom, hosted by the Tracy Press
• WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday, April 23; doors open at 6:30 p.m.
• WHERE: Kimball High School theater, 3200 Jaguar Run, off Lammers Road
• DETAILS: The three candidates for the south county supervisor seat will answer questions from the public. No signs or campaign materials will be allowed.
• COST: Free