Incumbents reign in election with low turnout; Carlson, Allen set to meet in November runoff

Incumbents Diana Becton, David Livingston and Gus Kramer held on to their seats.

[Editor’s note: A previously posted version of this story reported in error that Kristin Connolly was the incumbent in the Clerk-Recorder race.]

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (June 14, 2022) — Most of the Contra Costa County’s offices won’t look much different next month than they did the day before the June 7 election, as voters kept four main incumbents in place.

There was also another huge win for Democratic Congressman Mark DeSaulnier and a runaway victory for 15th District Assemblyman Tim Grayson. Both are former Concord mayors.

Sheriff David Livingston, County Assessor Gus Kramer, District Attorney Diana Becton and auditor Auditor-Controller Robert Campbell all held onto their jobs, despite some fierce battles in the sheriff, assessor and DA races.

In the Clerk-Recorder race, Kristin Braun Connelly, with 34 percent of the vote, will face off against Vicki Gordon, 24.5 percent of the vote, in November.

Livingston won with 69.5 percent of the vote after his foe, Benjamin Therriault, accused him of being too harsh on some alleged criminals – especially those with mental health issues. He decried Livingston’s defense of former deputy Andrew Hall, who shot and killed two alleged criminals, both suffering from mental health issues.

Kramer’s opponent, Flow Andrews, called the assessor’s office “toxic” following a highly publicized Grand Jury censure case against Kramer, claiming sexism, racism and a sexist work environment. The case ended in a mistrial, and Becton chose not to re-prosecute. Kramer went on to be reelected with 56.5 percent of the vote.

Candidate Mary Knox, an assistant prosecutor, said Becton was soft on crime, but the incumbent prevailed with 56 percent of the vote.

In her concession speech, Knox offered “her sincere congratulations” to Becton and said she looks forward to serving the community together. “I remain committed to my work to empower victims through my work as president of getVOCAL for Victims and will continue my work as a prosecutor.”

Gordon held on to her No. 2 spot the Clerk-Recorder race, beating out Kevin T. Murphy and Nick Spinner, with 22.1 and 20.4 percent of the votes, respectively.

Obringer concedes in tight Supervisor race

As of the writing of this article, votes were still being tallied in the closely watched District 4 supervisorial race. Pleasant Hill City Councilmember Ken Carlson held a slight lead in the pack of five candidates with 27.1 percent of the votes. He’ll challenge BART Director Debora Allen in a November runoff. Allen was trailing with 25.6 of the votes. On her tail was Concord City Councilmember Carlyn Obringer, who had 24.3 percent of the votes, but Obringer conceded the race on Friday, June 10, as it became clear Allen was inching ahead in the tally.

Roxanne Carillo Garza, endorsed by the county Democratic Party, came in a distant fourth with just 14 percent of the votes, and Concord City Councilmember Edi Birsan wrapped up the field with 9 percent of the votes.

Once the polls closed on June 7, it was apparent that Carlson’s “Watch Party” would turn into a victory party for the former police officer and one of the few openly gay elected officials in the county.

“This was truly grassroots,” he told his supporters. “We didn’t have (support from) labor. We didn’t even have (support from) law enforcement. But we had you knocking on doors and talking to people.”

In an official statement issued the day after the election, Carlson said: “I am excited by last night’s results that are the culmination of the hard work and support of so many. As we turn our focus to the November General Election, I look forward to getting to work on Day One and fighting for the issues that impact the everyday lives of the people of Contra Costa, fixing the housing and affordability crisis, helping our economy bounce back from the pandemic, fighting climate change, and delivering solutions to wildfires and sea level rise.”

Allen commended her opponents in an official statement. “All the candidates for District 4 supervisor should be congratulated for clearly articulating their positions to voters and running strong campaigns,” she said. “It was a diverse field of candidates, and I am truly honored for the support I received from the voters.”

While at the time it seemed that the race was not over, she did say, “I look forward to a fall election focused on solutions to the most prevailing issues facing our communities, which include public safety, affordable housing and effective mental health services.”

In her concession speech, Obringer, who will retain her position on the Concord City Council, she said she will “remain committed” to providing more housing and more local jobs, while continuing to make Concord a safe community for families and seniors. “The best is yet to come for Contra Costa County and the city of Concord,” she said.

Tiny turnout

The real dark horse in the June 7 election was the low turnout. In Contra Costa County, only 186,754 voters cast ballots out of 706,257 registered voters – just over 26 percent percent.

That was apparent at local precincts. “There are many people dropping off mail-in ballots, but not that many people voting in person,” said Debbie LaDue, a poll worker in the Crossings neighborhood of Concord. In fact, the two blue “mail-in” bags were bursting at the seams, while the precinct itself was quiet.

Kramer has some theories on why the turnout was so low.

“People are really concerned right now about other things that directly affect their lives, like the price of gas, the cost of groceries and living life with the pandemic,” he said. “Voting in a primary wasn’t a priority for them.”

Still, many people had reasons for voting in the midterm primary. “I hate Biden,” said Concord resident Judy Dyssegaard. “I am just voting red up and down the ballot.” She was even wearing red head-to-toe.

Stephen Sulyma of Concord had a different attitude. “I’m voting today because I think it’s important to keep my team in power,” he said. “I wish there were more items on the ballot, like gun control.”

Peggy Spear
Peggy Spear

Peggy Spear is a journalist and frequent contributor to the Pioneer.