Tracy dairyman Leroy Ornellas overwhelmingly won his second full term on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, while the race was close for superior court judge candidates, according to final results from Tuesday’s primary election.
Statewide, voters approved Proposition 99, which prevents authorities from taking residential property and giving it to private developers using eminent domain. Proposition 99 was one of two measures set to reform eminent domain laws.
Voters gave the thumbs-down to Proposition 98 — though it fared slightly better in San Joaquin County — which would have canceled the government’s authority to demolish homes and businesses in favor of new private development and also would have done away with rent control.
Of the county’s 253,149 registered voters, 60,167 — barely 24 percent — actually voted. Statewide, the highest county turnout average was about 30 percent, based on preliminary counts.
Turnout from Tracy’s 28,764 registered voters closely reflected the county’s percentage.
"The turnout this year is dismal, from what I’ve seen," said Asghar Shah, who for the past four years has volunteered his garage as a polling place. By 5 p.m. Tuesday, he said he’d seen no more than a dozen voters cast ballots. Four years ago, more than 600 people stopped by to vote, he said, forming a line that wove around the street corner by his southern Tracy home.
Considering the split primaries this year and the relative dearth of local issues on the June ballot — one local seat and a couple of propositions with little direct impact on Tracy residents — Shah said he’s hardly surprised so few people turned out.
"It’s still sad," he said, "because these are local issues at stake. I’ve just never seen such a low turnout."
It’s ironic, county Registrar of Voters Austin Erdman noted, that even though local issues affect voters more, people seem to think they’re less important.
The judicial election especially, Tracy Democratic Club president Marvin Rothschild said, carries more weight than people realize, because not only is it rare that voters get a chance to elect a Superior Court judge, but the terms the judges serve often span decades.
The top two candidates in the judge’s race — Phil Urie and James Morris — will run against each other this November, and once the winner takes a seat on the bench, he will likely serve until retirement without another contender.
"It makes you realize the gravity of the decision," Rothschild said before the votes were counted.
Urie had garnered 30.23 percent of Tuesday’s vote, while Morris had 29.37 percent. David Drivon was a close third with 26.46 percent of the vote. The fourth candidate, Frank Pacheco, had only 13.49 percent. The top two will be on the ballot again in November.
Eleventh District Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, and his challenger, Republican Dean Andal, ran unopposed in their respective parties in Tuesday’s election, as did 5th District state Senate campaigner and Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian, R-Stockton. His November opponent, Lois Wolk, an Assemblywoman from Davis, beat Stockton Democrat C. Jennet Stebbins by a hefty margin.
Statewide, little more than 22 percent of those registered cast a vote. That’s 3.6 million out of 16.1 million voters, according to results released by the office of the Secretary of State.
The presidential primary on Feb. 5, dubbed Super Tuesday, brought out 53 percent of the county’s registered voters, roughly a third of eligible voters. Last year’s primaries drew 42 percent of those registered, and the November 2007 election enticed just 24 percent, according to the county registrar’s office.
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