Helms Lewis, Silveira, Win
Big Time In County Vote
By JONATHAN WHITAKER
June 7, 2018
Change doesn’t always come easy,
but sometimes on Election Night, the energy and motivation
to create a new beginning comes crashing through.
Political newcomer Kimberly Helms Lewis
helped relay a strong message from voters on Tuesday night
with a landslide victory over incumbent District Attorney
Larry Morse for the job of being the county’s top
"We've campaigned based on bringing change to Merced
County, and they let us know tonight they agree that change
is what they're looking for too," she said.
Helms Lewis received nearly 66 percent of the vote, with
11,171 out of 16,987 votes cast in the race, compared to
Morse’s 34.11 percent, or 5,794 votes.
The 47-year-old, District Attorney-elect immediately promised
to lead the DA’s Office with a “tough, fair,
and honest” approach.
“The hard work starts tomorrow,” she said,
adding a thank you to Morse for dedicating 26 years to the
office. “Hopefully, we will be working together to
bring about a smooth transition.”
In reaction to the election, Morse said: “I congratulate
Ms. Lewis on a decisive victory and pledge to do everything
necessary to ensure a smooth transition. It has been an
honor and a privilege to serve as district attorney and
especially the opportunity to work with the incomparable
employees of our office, who have done so much to make our
Helms Lewis came onto the political scene only a few months
ago — around the same time the Merced Sun-Star published
allegations from three former prosecutors who said Morse
inappropriately kissed a married subordinate employee and
made sexual comments to women in the office. Morse denied
any wrongdoing and said the allegations were incidents taken
out of context.
However, Helms Lewis appeared to be boosted by local undercurrents
of the national #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, as she highlighted
serious concerns about the sexual harassment allegations,
along with possible rifts between the DA’s Office
and other county offices, and legal decisions that had the
appearance of being politically motivated.
While the idea wasn’t brought up much in the campaign,
Helms Lewis made history this week by shattering a long-standing
glass ceiling of Merced County politics.
She is now believed to be the first woman ever to be elected
to lead the DA’s Office since it first opened more
than a century and a half ago.
Silveira elected supervisor
Not as surprising, but equally impactful is the dominant
win by Scott Silveira over three other candidates in the
race for the “West Side” District 5 seat on
the Merced County Board of Supervisors.
Silveira of Los Banos received a whopping 69 percent of
the vote, with 2,367, compared to his closest competitor
Patrica Ramos Anderson of Santa Nella, with 19.76 percent,
or 758 votes.
For the past seven years, Silveira, a dairyman, has served
on the Los Banos City Council, and is a self-proclaimed
protege of longtime District 5 Supervisor Jerry O’Banion,
who is retiring from the board after an amazing 28-year
Before the Times press deadline Wednesday morning, all
signs indicated there would be no runoff in the District
5 race because Silveira had way more than the 50 percent
+ 1 needed to win the county seat outright. However, there
were still plenty of absentee and provisional ballots left
to count this week.
“All the hard work paid off and the community rewarded
me,” Silveira told the Times on Wednesday morning.
“Last night, I was not nervous. I knew I gave it everything
I had — physically and emotionally — and ultimately
it was in the hands of voters. They believed in our message.”
If his big lead holds, Silveira said he plans to take time
during the summer to get to know the inner-workings of County
Administration and meet all the department heads. He plans
on being a strong voice for the West Side, and work on economic
development plans such as an new industrial park outside
of Los Banos. He also is seeking a priority list of road
improvements for his district and increased cooperation
with the Sheriff’s Department to improve public safety
in West Side neighborhoods.
Tietjen’s work pays off
In the days leading up to Tuesday’s vote, County
Superintendent of Schools Steve Tietjen said he was taking
nothing for granted while campaigning across the entire
county to serve local students for another four years.
“I’m a competitor at heart,” he told
the Times on Election Night, “and you respect your
opponent by working as hard as you can. … And you
Tietjen earned 53 percent of the vote, with 8,833, compared
to his challenger, Richard Lopez, with 46.59 percent, or
Lopez, who is the superintendent of the small Merced River
School District, was considered the underdog of the race,
but he managed to keep the results pretty close —
losing by a little more than 1,000 votes.
“I’m glad it’s done and over with,”
Tietjen said, looking forward to continuing his goals on
the education front.
The superintendent wants to change the perception of Merced
County as a place where there is underemployment and an
undereducated workforce to a place where people want to
come, and executives want to bring their companies.
His administration has been targeting literacy rates in
the crucial period of preschool to third grade when some
students can fall behind. New strategies are encouraging
reading at home as well as in school, and looking at child
care income options.
Tietjen has also been improving ties with UC Merced and
Merced College, working to increase local college scholarships,
and bringing greater student access to summer programs such
as Camp Green Meadows, performing arts events, and STEM
It’s Caballero vs. Poythress
Candidate for State Senate, District 12, Rob Poythress
ran a blistering advertising campaign backed by Republican
donors to discredit his GOP challenger Johnny Tacherra.
And it appears to have worked.
Poythress earned 26.8 percent of the vote, or 16,277, compared
to Tacherra’s 23.6 percent, or 14,343, to take the
second spot for an eventual runoff in the November General
The overall winner in the race was Democrat Anna Caballero,
with 41.2 percent, or 25,017 votes. However, Caballero should
have her hands full in the runoff because District 12 has
been represented by Republicans for decades, and her GOP
challengers this week had way more combined votes than she
Caballero says she’s the logical choice for the Senate
job based on her experience, ability and mission to improve
the economies of rural communities in a district comprised
of parts of Monterey County, including Salinas, as well
as parts of San Benito, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera and Fresno
“Part of the advantage of having a Democrat is that
I’m in the caucus that’s making the decisions,”
she told the Times. “I’m in the caucus that
is determining where resources are going to be spent, and
how bills affecting the district are going to be managed.
And I have a real track record of working really hard on
rural issues and being able to actually make things happen.”
Poythress, a Madera County supervisor and farmer, has called
the race “critical” to Republicans who are trying
to gain ground in the battle against a Democrat-controlled
This is the fourth consecutive election loss for Tacherra,
who came close to defeating Congressman Jim Costa in the
midterms some years ago.
Costa vs. Heng
Speaking of Costa, the incumbent Democrat representing
the 16th Congressional District, received 53 percentage
points, or 24,139 votes, over GOP newcomer Elizabeth Heng,
with 47 percent of the vote, or 21,491.
The 16th District leans Democratic, but Costa has survived
a couple close calls from Tacherra and Andy Vidak in midterm
elections due to poor Democratic voter turnout.
Since this Congressional race featured only one challenger,
Costa and Heng are headed to the General Election.
It’s basically a progress report. And Heng …
well … she did all right.
Expect Costa, a longtime Valley representative with a substantial
war chest, to go all out come November.
Said Costa, “My commitment to do the best job possible
for the people of the 16th Congressional District and our
state has never wavered, and on Election Day, the voters
gave me the encouragement to continue. To that end, I will
always be the strongest advocate for meaningful solutions
that will give us a reliable water supply. In addition,
we can’t stop fighting for adequate healthcare for
all, job creation and improvements to our infrastructure.
I plan to work hard, and campaign hard, and encourage everyone
to remember they need to turn out and vote in November to
make sure their voices are heard.”
Measure Y passes
They said there was no reason not to vote yes on Measure
And City of Merced voters agreed.
Measure Y, a tax on marijuana sales, passed Tuesday night
with 77 percent of the vote, or 4,156 YES votes, compared
to 1,247 NO votes, out of 5,403 total votes cast.
Basically, Measure Y authorizes the Merced to tax the local
cannabis industry (the business owners, not the pot smokers)
on the sale of recreational marijuana by up to 10 percent.
All proceeds from the sales tax will be spent exclusively
on public safety — police and fire — and parks
and recreation. Each area will get 20 percent of total proceeds
each year, with the council directing the remaining 40 percent
to where it’s needed most among the three.