Hultgren wins back MID seat
3 incumbents lose in low turnout vote

November 9, 2017

Suzy Hultgren — the first woman board president of the Merced Irrigation District — will return to serve on the board after solidly defeating incumbent Kevin Gonzalves and businessman Sam Sahota in Tuesday’s election.
In the Division 4 race, Hultgren received 62 percent of the vote (or 642 votes out of 1,031 cast), Sahota was next with only 21 percent (220 votes) Gonzalves took 16 percent (167 votes).
Hultgren will represent an MID division that runs through the city of Livingston, parts of Atwater, and rural communities around Cressey, Winton, Amsterdam and Snelling.
While the incumbent Gonzalves had union support, he also has been been surrounded by controversy in recent months due to legal matters in a district water theft case, and headlines in the daily paper detailing past personal transgressions.
In an interview, the 53-year-old Hultgren told the Times: “We are in the battle of our lives right now with the state. We need to be unified so that we can support and direct staff to get things done.”
This will be Hultgren’s second term on the MID board. She was first elected in 2007 as only the second woman to do so, and the first in some 80 years.
In the Division 5 race, challenger Bob Weimer, 71, of Weimer Farms, beat out incumbent Billy Pimentel with the most votes in this year’s MID races — 1,567 — or 64 percent. Pimentel earned 36 percent of the vote, or 879 votes.
The Division 5 seat represents areas in and around Atwater, Buhach, McSwain, and lands stretching west near and along Highway 140.
In a interview with the Times, Weimer said: “The decisions that are being made by the Merced Irrigation District in the coming years are going to be very critical to the well being and economic growth of this basin. The wrong decisions can become very costly.”
Pimentel has served many terms on the MID board throughout his career, for a total of 21 years. He was highly critical of this year’s “off-year” election because of predicted low voter turnout.
The small ballot for the county featured three MID races, and a race for one spot on the Gustine School board (candidate Richard Smith won that by 70 percent of the vote.)
In the overall election, a total of 4,329 ballots were cast among some 32,079 registered voters eligible to participate (13.5 percent).
Perhaps the big upset of the night was challenger David Cole inched out a win against incumbent Scott Walter Koehn in the MID Division 2 race.
Cole, a special education teacher in Winton, won by 53.61 percent of the vote (or 371 votes) — just 50 votes over Koehn’s total of 321 votes.
Koehn, who has served one 5-year term, was known for being well-spoken as he represented MID at meetings and high-profile negotiations.
The Division 2 seat represents areas in and around El Nido, south Merced, downtown Merced, and parts of McSwain.

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