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Candidate list cast for June election

It rarely happens but the lack of a challenger means office seekers get to bypass voters and straight to office.

In Stanislaus County it is happening in five judge races. The rest of the candidates will be on the local June 5 ballot.

Stanislaus County Superior Court judge candidates Ann Ameral, Joseph Distaso, Valli Israels, Jack M. Jacobson and Stacy Speiller were unopposed and will be appointed in lieu of an election in June. Speiller of Oakdale was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown last November to replace Nan Jacobs who retired in 2015. Judicial Office #2 occupied by Judge Loretta Begen is being sought by attorneys Carrie M. Stephens and Crystal Swanson.

Ceres voters won't be deciding on new council members until the Nov. 3 election. Two seats will be up for grabs this fall when District 1 occupied by Ken Lane and District 2 occupied by Linda Ryno open up. Lane has stated he will not seek re-election.

The most crowded race this June is the congressional race for Jeff Denham's District 10 seat. On the ballot are Denham, attorney and independent Scott Shoblom, communications firm owner and Democrat Virginia Madueno, Modesto Junior College business teacher Josh Harder, emergency room nurse Sue Zwahlen, Manteca lawyer and Democrat Michael Barkley, farmer and Democrat Michael Eggman and Turlock veterinarian and Republican Ted Howze. All but Howze and Shoblom are Democrats.

This is Eggman's third try at Denham's seat. He lost by 12 percentage points in 2014 and lost by less than four percent in 2016.

Because California has an open primary election system, the top two vote-getters in June go onto the November ballot, regardless of party.

Ceres attorney Tom Hallinan is seeking the District 1 seat on the California State Board of Equalization. The Democrat is running against two Republicans - former state Assemblywoman Connie Gaines, and state Senator Ted Gaines. The Board of Equalization is responsible for reviewing, equalizing, or adjusting property tax assessments, assessing taxes on insurers, and assessing/collecting excise taxes on alcoholic beverages. It also acts as the appellate body for corporate franchise and personal income tax appeals.

With Ceres Republican Anthony Cannella being termed out of his 12th District seat in the California State Senate, four candidates have emerged. They are Salinas Democrat Anna Caballero, Madera County Supervisor and Republican Rob Poythress, Fowler Mayor Pro-Tem and Democrat Daniel Parra of Fowler and Republican Burrel-based dairy farmer Johnny Tacherra.

State Assemblyman Adam Gray is unopposed in the state Assembly 21st District race. Gray was elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2016 after Republican Greg Opinski withdrew from the race. His district encompasses most of Ceres.

A sliver of east Ceres and all of Hughson falls in the 12th state Assembly District which is represented by Heath Flora, a Republican who was elected two years ago. He is being challenged by Democrat Robert D. Chase, a Modesto attorney.

Two seats are up for the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors in June, neither involving Ceres voters. District 3 Supervisor Terry Withrow is being challenged by businesswoman Katherine Borges and Modesto Vice Mayor Tony Madrigal. Four candidates have emerged in a quest to fill the District 4 seat being vacated by Dick Monteith. Candidates are state Senator and Ceres native Tom Berryhill who is being forced out of office because of term limits; Modesto attorney Frank Damrell; Royal Summit packing company owner Bret De St. Jeor; and businesswoman and former Modesto City Councilwoman Janice E. Keating.

County residents will be deciding on a host of other races.

Stanislaus County Supervisor Don H. Gaekle is unopposed for re-election.

The Stanislaus County Auditor-Controller's office is being sought by Kashmir K. Gill, the assistant auditor-controller, and Mandip S. Dhillon, who is the assistant director at Stanislaus County Behavioral Health.

Assistant Clerk-Recorder Donna Linder is the lone candidate to replace retiring Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan.

Two persons are running for Stanislaus County Treasurer-Tax Collector. Former Stanislaus County Supervisor Bill O'Brien and county budget manager Donna Riley hope to succeed Gordon Ford, who is retiring this year. The position oversees the collection of property taxes and other revenues and is in charge of investing the county's reserve of $1 billion as well as the $1.8 million of the Stanislaus County Employees' Retirement Association, known as StanCERA. Ford has held the position since 2005.

Three candidates are taking on incumbent District Attorney Birgit Fladager. They are criminal defense attorneys Patrick Kolasinski and Steven O'Connor and prosecutor John R. Mayne. O'Connor most recently served as the defense attorney for Ceres murderer Mark Mesiti. Kolasinski was trounced in his election bid for Yosemite Community College District board in 2016.

Fladager was opposed four years ago by defense attorney Frank Carson who is a defendant in the Korey Kauffman murder trial.

Local voters will also be deciding who replaces Adam Christianson as sheriff of Stanislaus County. Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Dirkse is Christianson's choice over Sheriff's Sgt. Juan Alanis. Tom Letras decided to abandon his run for sheriff after the deputies voted to endorse Dirkse.

Dirkse, 45, a West Point graduate, joined the Sheriff's Department in 2007 as a patrol deputy, and was promoted to sergeant, detective and now lieutenant. He became Patterson's chief in May 2015 as part of the county's contract with that city to provide police services.

Endorsing Dirkse are 17 sheriffs in the state and the Ceres and Modesto Police Officers Associations, Stanislaus County Sheriff's Supervisors Association, Stanislaus County Sworn Management Association and Stanislaus Sworn Deputies Association.

Alanis has spent 23 years with the Sheriff's Department and served as Patrol Watch Commander, acting Police Chief in Waterford and Hughson, a patrol sergeant, Hughson Contract City Supervisor and the Supervisor of the Special Vehicle Operations Unit. He worked in the patrol division, as a courthouse bailiff, member of SWAT and SWAT support, a Crimes Against Children detective assigned to the Family Justice Center, a School Resource Officer and was the Deputy Sheriff's Association Vice President.

County residents will also be deciding who will replace Tom Changnon as superindent of Stanislaus County Schools. Three candidates have tossed their hats into the ring to replace Changnon, who is not seeking reelection. Gratton School District Superintendent Shannon Sanford, Waterford Unified School District Superintendent Don Davis and Stanislaus County Office of Education Assistant Superintendent Scott Kuykendall are running.

Kuykendall began his 23-year career in education as a Spanish and English teacher at Gustine High School, and after teaching for five years moved into administration. Since then, he has served as principal at Johansen High School and as the director of secondary education for Modesto City Schools. He also oversaw career technical education programs in the district, including FFA.

Don Davis, who has served as WUSD Superintendent since 2009, also hopes to focus on STEM education in addition to promoting early literacy and developing model instructional programs, if elected. He has spoken at a number of education conferences internationally and across the county on his experience with these initiatives, and this year, Waterford High School was awarded the prestigious California Gold Ribbon Award by the California Department of Education as a result of those efforts.

A resident of Turlock, Sanford is a 28-year education veteran and spent 16 years as a teacher in the classroom and the past 12 years as GSD Superintendent.

Voters in Hughson will be deciding on Measure U put forth by the Hughson Fire Protection District. Its passage would implement a special tax of $130 per year per residential units to fund firefighting personnel, including training, maintain and acquire emergency vehicles and lifesaving equipment.

As if the number of decisions weren't already long, voters must make choices on the next U.S. Senator from California, governor, lieutenant governor, state attorney general, secretary of state, state controller, state treasurer and state insurance commissioner. The actual list of candidates is not set until March 29.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is seeking re-election but is being challenged by state Senator Kevin de Leon, a fellow Democrat; Democrat Adrienne Edwards, the vice chairman on the HDT Community Development Foundation board; attorney and progressive Democrat Eugene Patterson Harris; and Democrat Steve Stokes, national director of Wolf PAC.

Thus far the candidates for governor are Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, state Treasurer John Chiang, state Assemblyman Travis Allen, Republican businessman John Cox and former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. Newsom, Villaraigosa, Chiang and Eastin are all Democrats.

Candidates for lieutenant governor are Democrats Jeff Bleich, former United States Ambassador to Australia; Cameron Gharabiklou, attorney and businessman; state Senator Ed Hernandez, Eleni Kounalakis, former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary; and Matthew Rizzie. Republicans seeking the seat are economics professor Lydia Ortega and perennial candidate David Hernandez.

Running for California State attorney general are controversial Jerry Brown appointee Xavier Becerra; Democrat state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones; and three Republicans - Steven Bailey, retired El Dorado County Superior Court Judge; Eric Early, Managing Partner of Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae LLP; and attorney Nina Salarno.

Secretary of State candidates include Ruben Major, Mark P. Meuser, former Santa Monica mayor Michael Feinstein, Erik Rydberg and C.T. Weber.

State Controller Betty Yee is running for re-election. Declared candidates are Republican Konstantinos Roditis and Peace and Freedom Party candidate Mary Lou Finley.

State Treasurer John Chiang is running for governor and not seeking re-election. Declared candidates are Fiona Ma, chairwoman of the California State Board of Equalization and Vivek Viswanathan, former Special Advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown and Policy Advisor to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. Philanthropist Brian Pendleton is a potential candidate.

State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is being termed out and cannot run again. Democrats declared as candidates are State Senator Ricardo Lara, radiation oncologist Paul Song and pulmonologist Asif Mahmood. Also declared as a candidate is insurance agent Peter Kuo, and former congressional candidate. Former Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner is a declared Independent candidate as is Peace and Freedom Party candidate Nathalie Hrizi.