Conservatives jubilant about voting results
The morning after, conservatives celebrated while environmentalists tried to play down the results of Tuesday’s primary election.
“I’m just ecstatic,” said Robin Sutherland, who beat a conservative opponent while keeping an incumbent supervisor on the ropes. “I just love this county. We have the best people in this county.”
Sutherland will face 4th District Supervisor Elizabeth Martin in a November runoff after netting an unofficial 34 percent of the vote to Martin’s 38 percent.
Tuesday’s results – which also sent incumbent 3rd District Supervisor Bruce Conklin into a runoff – signal “a strong sentiment that there’s a need for change,” Conklin’s main challenger, Drew Bedwell, said in the middle of a morning picking up election signs.
A sanguine Conklin said he predicted that Bedwell would gain about 37 percent of the vote. “He got 40 percent. It’ll take a couple of weeks to digest the data.”
For supporters of the two challengers, the data’s been in for a while.
The county’s Natural Heritage 2020 program “was the major issue, we think,” said Bill Weismann, outreach coordinator for Citizens for Property Rights In Nevada County, about the embattled long-range planning program due to be finished next year.
“Both Robin and Drew claimed that was the primary reason they ran to begin with,” he said, “and I think a lot of people backed them because of that.”
“It’s definite validation of what we’ve been saying all along: NH 2020 is not in the best interests of the people of this county,” said Margaret Urke, executive director of the California Association of Business, Property and Resource Owners, about anti-NH 2020 candidates’ entrance into runoff elections.
“We are thrilled,” Urke said. “We didn’t have a clue how this race was going to turn out.”
Kim Janousek, president of CPR-INC, said she did.
The response to thousands of mailers the organization sent out last month decrying NH 2020 showed that voters are “tired of having their voices fall on deaf ears,” she said.
County supervisors threw down the gauntlet when they “thumbed their noses at more than 8,000 signatures we brought in” asking that the embattled program be put to a vote, Bedwell said.
“Those of us who worked hard just started working harder,” he said.
Many voters still are smarting over the 4-1 environmentalist majority’s 2000 decision to ask state Sen. Byron Sher, D – Palo Alto, to sponsor a bill to put 39 miles of the South Yuba River into the state’s wild and scenic program after local elected officials refused to do so.
“A lot of people I’ve talked to felt like they’ve been slapped in the face,” Sutherland said. “People feel they have no control of their community any more.”
It’s the same with Natural Heritage 2020, she said.
Shoe leather, not a planning program, brought voters to the conservative side, said defeated 3rd District candidate Mark Johnson.
“The candidates who ran the hardest campaigns prevailed, regardless of what some of the messages and ideals were,” he said. “Bedwell has been walking precincts since Halloween and voters respect that.”
Johnson said he had not made any decision to throw his support to either Conklin or Bedwell. “It’s too early to say,” he said. “I’m going to take a couple of weeks off from politics.”
Johnson said that the four supervisors who dominate the board have “been negligent in reaching out to people they disagree with.”
Martin’s and Conklin’s supporters think more information will bring voters around to vote for them.
Brian Bisnett, board member of the Rural Quality Coalition, a chief supporter of the board’s environmentalist majority, said he sees “no big upset” in the primary, but does see “a lot of confusion and concern” about the resource protection program.
“As people see what’s come out of NH 2020 and the way it’s working, there will be less concern,” said Bisnett, a member of the NH 2020 Community Advisory Committee.
Cathy Scarpa, president of the RQC, interpreted the vote as “a pretty even split between strong support for long-range planning and a strong concern on the community’s part to balance the whole property rights issues. That’s unfortunate because it’s based on fear.”
Voter turnout here was average Tuesday, but might have favored conservatives.
A hot contest at the top of the ticket – the choice for the Republican candidate for governor – drew more conservatives to the polls this election, said John Ellwood, an adjunct fellow of the non-profit Public Policy Institute of California and professor of public policy and associate dean at the University of California at Berkeley.
“I assume Democrats will go to the polls at their normal rate in November,” Ellwood said.
Conservatives, who have long complained about out-of-town money from environmental organizations in local races, may have found a patron of their own.
California’s timber giant, Sierra Pacific Industries, whose 1.5 million acres includes 50,000 acres in Nevada County, paid for a day’s worth of political training for several supervisorial candidates from northern California counties, including Bedwell and Sutherland.
Ed Bond, manager of human resources for SPI, said that before the company supports a candidate, “We talk with them about what their understanding of our issues in the community are.”
About six weeks before the election, Bedwell and Sutherland accepted SPI’s offer for professional advice from the Sacramento-based firm Townsend Raimundo Besler & Usher, whose Web site proclaims: “Moving public opinion is our business.”
The $200 worth of training “took us through the whole 10 yards on the whole political process,” Bedwell said.
Rene Antonson, who netted 23 percent of the vote in District 4, could not be reached for comment on who he will support in the general election; his phone line was busy all day.
Martin did not return phone calls.
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