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Farmer becomes Supervisor Chiesa
Hughson farmer Vito Chiesa defeated former Sheriff Les Weidman for the District 2 Board of Supervisors seat while Jim DeMartini proved that his reputation has been unharmed by recent courtroom allegations to keep his District 5 seat.

When Weidman formally conceded the to Chiesa at 9 p.m. Tuesday evening, June 3, the former Stanislaus County sheriff was less than 700 votes, just 11 percent, behind in the results. When the dust settled, however, Chiesa had secured a convincing 17 percent margin of victory, with 2,100 more votes in his favor than Weidman had been able to garner.

"We're very excited," said Chiesa campaign consultant Carl Fogliani. "We were obviously cautiously optimistic running against such a strong candidate as (Weidman), but we thought we had a superior candidate with a superior message and a superior campaign, and in the end we thought were going to see the result that we did."

While turnout was slightly lower than expected, with just more than 12,000 votes counted so far in the District 2 race, the low level of voter participation was not something that either candidate was hoping for. The Chiesa campaign was confident of success regardless of the number of votes cast, based on the positive feedback received from the community.

"We had a pretty good idea (that Vito was going to win) in the last two weeks before the election," Fogliani said. "The momentum was obvious; his message had really taken hold in the district."

Chiesa had established a solid grassroots political structure with the support and funding.

Chiesa will replace Tom Mayfield, another Hughson farmer, on the board. Mayfield is stepping down after 16 years of service.

District 2 covers the communities of Hughson, Turlock, Keyes, Hickman and Denair.

Chiesa sounded the campaign theme of protecting farmland from urban encroachment. He also campaigned for better police and fire protection in the rural areas as well as "making sure that the southern area and the east area (of the county) get their fair share. For too long all of the eastside and southeast - District 2 - has not gotten their fair share." Specifically he doesn't feel the district has received its share of road monies and police services.

Cheisa tried to separate himself from Weidman saying he is "not a career politician." Weidman quit his sheriff's job to work for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

DeMartini, a Ceres-Westport area rancher, handily defeated John Franzia by 43 percent of the vote. His district covers Ceres and the west side communities of Patterson and Newman.

Allegations about DeMartini were raised by Los Angeles attorney Mark Geragos who is defending the woman accused of stealing DeMartini's identity. Geragos has insinuated in court that DeMartini was romantically involved with Serena Essapour. Essapour is being prosecuted for stealing DeMartini's personal information to fraudulently apply for credit cards.

The two competing ballot initiatives Proposition 98 and Proposition 99 both dealt with the issue of eminent domain, albeit with drastically different approaches.

Statewide, Prop 98 failed to garner even 40 percent of the vote while Prop 99 sailed through with 63 percent in favor. As a result, owner occupied residences will now be off limits for eminent domain purchase, should the land be meant for use in private development.