Campaign season officially begins in San Benito County

The new March 3 date for the 2020 California primary may be great news for some presidential candidates, but for county and state legislative candidates, it means a longer—and likely more expensive—campaign season.

Instead of announcing their candidacies in the fall, county supervisor and state legislative candidate announcements began last spring.

The filing deadlines for the March 3 primary were Dec. 6 and Dec. 11. Candidates’ yard signs are likely to be illuminated by holiday lights this month, and New Year’s resolutions may include candidate endorsements.

In San Benito County, nine men and women will be spending their winter weekends campaigning for three county supervisor seats, and two school districts will begin email and postal campaigns for big-ticket bond issues.

Local city, school and special district elections are Nov. 3.

More than half of San Benito County voters vote by mail, a percentage that has increased each year. The voter guides for the March 3 vote arrive in mailboxes in mid-January, and ballots will be mailed to voters beginning Feb. 3. That means most of the handshaking and speeches and endorsements will begin in earnest in early January, to reach the growing number of early voters. 

For Angela Curro, assistant county clerk and registrar of voters, and Sheyla Gonzales, deputy county clerk and elections recorder, this holiday season is likely to include few extra days off, as the election season paperwork already is beginning to pile up.

The hottest contest in San Benito County will be in the county supervisor 2nd District, left vacant by Anthony Botelho’s decision last May not to seek reelection. The district occupies the county’s northwest corner, includes San Juan Bautista and is about 46 percent Latino.

[subhed] The candidates

The 2nd District supervisor candidates are: 

Frank Barragan, a financial controller with law and MBA degrees. He lost a 2018 election for the county Health Care District.

Valerie Egland, a county planning commissioner (appointed by Botelho) and former parks commissioner who lives in San Juan Bautista.

John Freeman, a San Juan Bautista council member whose city term expires in 2020 who is chair of the county Water Resources Board.

Kollin Kosmicki, of San Juan Bautista, a former editor of the Free Lance and owner/editor of San Benito Live, a community news website. 

Wayne Norton, a director or the Aromas Water District and past Aromas Rotary president, who is active in local Democratic politics.

The 1st District of the Board of Supervisors includes northeast Hollister and the northeast corner of San Benito County, and is more than 52 percent Latino.

Incumbent Mark Medina is seeking reelection to a second four-year term. Medina was the board chair in 2019.

His challenger is Betsy Dirks, who lists her occupation as an educational consultant. She is president of a local non-profit, the Live Like Geno Foundation.

The other supervisor seat up for grabs is the 5th DIstrict, which covers an area both inside and outside the Hollister city limits between the 1st and 2nd Districts, south of the Hollister Airport and north of South Street.

Jaime De La Cruz, the incumbent seeking reelection, has represented this 80-plus percent Latino district since 2002. De la Cruz ran unsuccessfully for county treasurer/tax collector in 2018.

His challenger, teacher Bea Gonzales of Hollister, served one term as a trustee with the Hollister School District, in 2006-10.

[subhed] 30th Assembly and 20th Congressional

Hollister favorite son Robert Rivas, a former San Benito High School counselor and Gavilan college instructor, is seeking reelection to a second two-year term representing the 29th Assembly District. His constituents live in south Santa Clara County, San Benito County, northern Monterey County and southern Santa Cruz County.

The Democrat faces March 3 challenges from Paicines walnut grower Gregory Swett, president of the Willow Grove Union School District, and Dave Clink, a Morgan Hill realtor.

In the 20th Congressional District, which includes San Benito County, first-term incumbent Democrat Jimmy Panetta of Carmel Valley faces primary challenges from environmental advocate Adam Bolanos Scow of Watsonville, Mark Esquibel of Santa Cruz and Monterey Republican Jeff Gorman.

[subhed] School bonds and nodes

Also on the March 3 ballot will be Measure K, a county-wide vote to endorse or reject a proposed zoning change that would create commercial zones around four Highway 101 interchanges south of Hollister.

The San Benito High School District will be asking voters to approve $30 million in general obligation bonds to build a new cafeteria/student union/multipurpose building, add fences and cameras for security, and install solar panels on campus buildings. The measure would require

up to $13 per $100,000 of assessed valuation in new property taxes.

The Aromas-San Juan Unified School District is seeking permission to re-issue $4.2 million in general obligation bonds originally approved in 2010, to fund a wide range of repair and renovation projects. This would require new property taxes of about $20 per $100,000 in assessed value.


  1. Wouldn’t it be such a great surprise to hear from our City Government, “We finished Project ‘ABC’ and didn’t use as much money as we expected it would cost, so we are eliminating this additional tax from your Property Taxes beginning in 2020.” I wonder if that has ever happened in San Benito County? or anywhere in California before? even the United States? (I keep hoping for a miracle!)

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