Controversies roil supervisorial, judgeship contests in North County

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Three top countywide positions will see incumbents returned on Tuesday without a challenge: Auditor Robert Geis, District Attorney Tom Sneddon and schools Superintendent Bill Cirone. Eight races already in home stretch Controversies roil supervisorial, judgeship contests in North County 3/04/02 By NORA K. WALLACE NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER Without any votes being cast, eight candidates effectively have been elected to office in Santa Barbara County. No challengers stepped forward to run in Tuesday’s primary against such high-profile officeholders as District Attorney Thomas Sneddon, Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone and Auditor-Controller Robert Geis. Also coasting to victory — and six-year terms — were unchallenged Superior Court judges Thomas Adams, James Jennings, Harry Loberg, Joseph Lodge and Frank Ochoa. Usually on election night, candidates pace nervously inside the county courthouse, glancing at screens scrolling updated vote returns, jockeying for media interviews, or ducking attention when the percentages aren’t racking up. “Election night is always a special feeling, opposed or unopposed,” explained Mr. Cirone, who was first elected in 1982, and is entering his sixth term. Like several other longtime county officeholders, he has been unopposed since first entering the election fray. He beat four other candidates in 1982 — and has not been challenged since. “It’s an honor and a privilege,” he said of the de facto support, while giving kudos to his staff. Despite his clear path to another term, Mr. Cirone said he still feels nervous on election night. “It’s not so much the winning and losing,” he said, “it’s the electoral process that really excites me. At the end of the night, I always have a renewed sense of commitment.” For Mr. Geis, election anxiety comes during the filing period, when challengers have the first opportunity to surface. As chief fiscal officer for the county since 1991 — the person in charge of accounting, budgeting and financial services — he has been unopposed in every reelection bids. “You’d like to hope you’re doing a great job,” he said, guessing at why he’s unopposed. “You build a good record. The incumbent does eventually hold an advantage. You get your title on the ballot. It takes a lot of money for somebody to come in and unseat an incumbent, if you’re doing a good job.” A host of candidates are undoubtedly going to have a harder time come Tuesday. By design, the primary bumps off less popular candidates, and pushes others forward to November’s General Election. Some will be victorious outright: In the race for 2nd District supervisor, the top vote-getter in the contest between incumbent Susan Rose and challenger Michael Magne will win the seat. [b]Strange developments in the race for 5th District supervisor created a twist just days before the election. Three candidates are seeking the open post: Joe Centeno, Jeanne Sparks and William Wagener. Mr. Wagener, who is on probation for a 1998 felony conviction of “bail jumping” in Wisconsin, spent a night in jail last week after authorities here arrested him on suspicion of violating his Wisconsin probation. In Wisconsin, it’s illegal for a convicted felon to hold elected office. But the primary isn’t until tomorrow, and Mr. Wagener was released. A long shot to begin with, Mr. Wagener’s record would become an issue only if he wins the majority of votes on Tuesday. Another controversy has surfaced, in the race for Superior Court judge, office No. 7. Incumbent Diana Hall is being challenged by Charles Biely. On Friday, Mr. Biely resigned from his job as an assistant district attorney, and withdrew from the race, after admitting he had downloaded pornography on his work computer. Because of the lateness of his withdrawal, Mr. Biely’s name will still appear on the ballot.[/b] Perhaps the most heated campaign has been that for sheriff. Four men are battling for the job: Ugo “Butch” Arnoldi, Dave Dorsey, Roger Aceves and Jim Anderson. Unless someone wins a majority, the top two-vote getters will face-off to November. Other county jobs are up for grabs as well. Joe Holland and Larry Herrera are seeking the spot of county clerk-recorder-assessor, and Bernice James and Eric Sonquist want to become the treasurer-tax collector. On the state level, state Sen. Jack O’Connell, D-San Luis Obispo, is hoping to become the superintendent of public instruction. If successful, reports indicate Mr. O’Connell will become the first Central Coast man elected to a state-level post since 1916. He would replace a UCSB graduate, however, in Delaine Eastin. County Clerk-Recorder Ken Pettit is predicting a 42 percent turnout. In the 2000 General Election, almost 56 percent of eligible voters in Santa Barbara County cast ballots; primaries generally attract fewer voters. “Without insulting the candidates, the only thing on there (the ballot) is the Republican gubernatorial (race),” Mr. Pettit said. “The rest are yawners … There’s nothing on the state level, enough to lift local interest. It’s going to have to be up to individual candidates kicking down doors Tuesday to get people to vote.” About 37,000 people requested absentee ballots, he said, but only 7,000 were returned by Friday afternoon. Usually, he said, the office receives about 80 percent returned by Election Day. PRIMARY COLORS Tuesday is Election Day in California, with a host of federal, state and local races on the ballot. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To reach the county Elections Division, call 568-2200 or log on to Election results will be available throughout the night at that Web site. To report information on illegal voter registration or voting activities, call 568-2204. To find your polling place, call the elections office or log on to its Web site. You can also log on to the California League of Women Voters’ site,, where you can view a replica of the ballot for your address and find your polling place. If you have requested an absentee ballot but haven’t yet mailed it in, it’s too late. Absentee ballots can be taken in person to any polling place on Tuesday. Source: [url=][/url]

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