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Riverside County Sheriff Appears Headed for Win

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Times Staff Writers

In an election marked by an anemic voter turnout, Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle coasted to an easy victory in his campaign for a second term, and voters in Barstow rejected an initiative that would have scuttled plans to build side-by-side Indian casinos in the desert town.

Despite a vicious assessor campaign and a host of crowded primary races, it appeared that fewer than a third of registered voters in both Riverside and San Bernardino counties appeared to go to the polls Tuesday, in line with the state’s projections for a low turnout.

Doyle, who has pushed for more jail beds in the county’s overburdened system, trounced retired Undersheriff Rick Sayre and Desert Hot Springs Police Officer Robert Ritchie. The race had been plagued by recent allegations -- which Doyle disputed -- that the department awarded special civilian badges to campaign contributors.

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A divided sheriff’s deputies union did not endorse any candidate.

“I’m elated,” said Doyle, who gathered with supporters at downtown Riverside’s Marriott hotel. “It’s certainly a vote of confidence from the constituency in the job that I’ve done.”

In the Inland Empire region’s highest-profile ballot measure, voters in Barstow rejected an Indian gambling initiative that would have created a gambling district along Interstate 15. The proposal would have bolstered the Chemehuevi tribe’s attempts to build a casino in Barstow, about 180 miles from its reservation in Havasu Lake.

The city attorney has said the measure’s passage would essentially quash a plan, backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for the Los Coyotes tribe from San Diego County and the Big Lagoon tribe from Humboldt County to build side-by-side casinos in the town’s southern outskirts near Interstate 15.

The battle had gotten so heated that Councilman Paul Luellig, who opposes the measure, was targeted for a recall, which voters were deciding Tuesday night.

“I think it’ll be great if voters see through the fraud and deception” in the measure, Luellig said from his home.

The other notable ballot measure was in San Bernardino, whose City Council asked for its first raise since 1937 -- a measure that was trailing. Council members make $50 a month and would like their salaries to be 12.5% of county judges’ salaries, or about $1,550 a month.

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Bill Postmus led incumbent Donald E. Williamson in San Bernardino County’s most closely watched -- and arguably most contentious -- race, for the typically low-profile job of assessor.

If none of the four candidates nabs a majority, the top two battle for the post in November.

Postmus, the Board of Supervisors chairman, spent nearly $1 million on his campaign, which included political mailers that detailed a sexual-harassment claim that the county had settled for Williamson. With a comparably minuscule war chest, the incumbent tried to roll back taxes on 70,000 properties just weeks before the election, which county officials blocked.

The region’s voters weighed in on several crowded and lively primaries, most of which were too close to call, including a nasty battle in the 65th Assembly District, which includes parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties and the Twentynine Palms Marine base.

Yucca Valley Mayor Paul Cook grabbed the lead, but Brenda Salas, Hemet Mayor Robin Lowe and San Jacinto Councilman Jim Ayres were close behind. The winner will face Democrat Rita Ramirez-Dean and Peace and Freedom Party candidate Jon Taleb.

In the 62nd Assembly District’s Democratic primary, Jeremy Baca lagged behind Wilmer Amina Carter in his bid to take on GOP candidate Marge Mendoza-Ware and expand the Baca family political dynasty.

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Baca, the son of Rep. Joe Baca (D-Rialto), is vying for a district that includes Colton, Muscoy and Rialto. His brother Joe Baca Jr. vacated the seat to make a state Senate run.

Baca Jr. was trailing far behind his opponent in the 32nd District Democratic primary, Gloria Negrete McLeod.

Palms Springs Mayor Ron Oden, one of the nation’s best-known gay, black politicians, was in a close race with Steve Clute in the Democratic primary for the 80th Assembly District, which includes parts of Coachella Valley and Riverside and Imperial counties. Clute, who runs a children’s charity, pocketed the state party’s backing in the race to battle Republican Bonnie Garcia.

In another packed primary, the 66th Assembly District Republican race saw Kevin Jeffries, former chairman of the Riverside County GOP, emerging as the front-runner, with Riverside Councilman Steve Adams trailing.

Jeffries appears likely to face off with small-business owner Laurel Nicholson, the Democratic candidate, to represent an area that cuts through Riverside and San Diego counties.

Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley was easily reelected to a second term, beating lesser-known Sandra Baxter Dutcher, a Nuevo attorney, to represent the giant county’s midsection.

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San Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt, who represents the Ontario area, won handily over Kenneth Michael White, who ran to protest the board’s decision to join a lawsuit that seeks to overturn California’s medicinal marijuana laws.

Several officials in the two counties cruised to reelection sans opponents: Dist. Atty. Michael A. Ramos, Sheriff Gary S. Penrod and Supervisor Paul Biane in San Bernardino County, and Supervisors John Tavaglione and Roy Wilson in Riverside County.

Rod Pacheco snagged Riverside County’s district attorney post without a challenger.

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