One of the most competitive San Mateo County supervisor contests in decades might be decided by a minority of the electorate — and the decisive votes might not even come from the winner’s district.
With some 343,039 ballots landing in voters’ mailboxes this week, six candidates for the vacant District 1 seat have started a final push before the May 3 special election — the first all-mail supervisor election in county history.
Click the picture to see the candidates.
San Mateo is the last in California to elect its supervisors countywide, meaning a candidate could lose in District 1 and still win the seat, which was vacated by Mark Church after he was elected county assessor last year.
To spread their message countywide, the four most prominent candidates — Burlingame Mayor Terry Nagel, San Mateo Community College District board President Richard Holober, Millbrae Councilor Gina Papan and San Mateo Union High School District Trustee Dave Pine — have amassed significant campaign cash and endorsements.
Two previous candidates, victim’s advocate Michael Stogner and San Mateo Highlands resident Demetrios Nikas, also are running.
With four well-established elected officials, the race is a sharp contrast to the typically unopposed or uncompetitive supervisor races of the past three decades. And this year, unlike a typical supervisor election, there is no runoff if no candidate gets less than 50 percent of the vote, so hopefuls are spreading out to round up votes during the next few weeks.
“In virtually every community, I have some very well-respected people that are helping me,” Pine said. “In some respects, it’s like running 20 city council campaigns at once.”
Papan comes with the advantage of good name recognition, stemming in large part from father Lou Papan’s service in the state Assembly for 20 years.
“But we take nothing for granted,” campaign manager Alex Tourk said. “We really think the time and energy we put in over the last eight, nine months is what’s going to get it done.”
Holober said he has been sending mailers with “some of the solutions I’m proposing for the very difficult budget situation the county’s facing,” and holding gatherings and volunteer phone drives.
Nagel said she has 260 volunteers actively working on her campaign, and she is “running on my message, whether it’s job creation or improving the economy or managing our budget.”
Pine has by far the largest campaign war chest, having raised $310,000 as of March 19, which includes more than $185,000 of his own money. He’s followed by Nagel with $142,600, Papan with $109,500 and Holober with $64,100. Stogner and Nikas are doing little to no fundraising.
Stogner is relying on the Internet to spread his message that he will increase oversight of other county officials.
“I’m just asking the voters to spend 15 or 20 minutes Googling my name,” he said.
Nikas isn’t running a campaign, aside from attending candidate forums, and said his sole issue is reforming public pensions.
“This is the core of the problem, the way I see it. You can’t really balance the budget until you address the pension situation.”
Occupation: Former Silicon Valley businessman
Offices held: San Mateo Union High School District trustee, 2007 to present; Burlingame School District trustee, 2003 to 2007
Key endorsements: Rep. Jackie Speier, Assemblyman Rich Gordon, former Assemblyman Gene Mullin, Loma Prieta Sierra Club
Occupation: Victim’s advocate, businessman
Offices held: None
Key endorsments: Sequoia Healthcare District board member Jack Hickey, Atherton residents John Buckheit and Peter Carpenter
Occupation: Deputy state attorney general
Offices held: Millbrae City Council, 2005 to present (mayor in 2008)
Key endorsements: Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, state Sen. Leland Yee, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma
Occupation: Executive director of Consumer Federation of California
Offices held: San Mateo County Community College District trustee, 1997 to present (currently serving as president); Millbrae School District Board of Trustees, 1993 to 1997
Key endorsements: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Federation of Teachers, California Nurses Association, CDF Firefighters Local 2881
Occupation: Nonprofit manager
Offices held: Burlingame City Council, 2003 to present (mayor in 2007 and 2011); San Mateo County Transportation Authority, elected 2009 and 2011
Key endorsements: San Mateo County Treasurer-Tax Collector Sandie Arnot, Sustainable San Mateo County Chair Bill Schulte, James Cannon Jr., former president of county Board of Education
Occupation: Retired airline mechanic
Residence: Unincorporated San Mateo County
Offices held: None
Key endorsements: None
Source: San Mateo County Elections Office