The economy, education policies, gun laws and deepening political polarization were among the topics that Tuolumne County voters said were on their minds as they cast ballots Tuesday in California’s gubernatorial primary election.
Local races on the ballot included tightly contested battles for District 2 county supervisor, county superintendent of schools and two open seats on the Sonora City Council.
Cyndy Tune, who moved to Tuolumne County in 1955 when she was a year old and graduated from Twain Harte Elementary School and Summerville High School, said local education is very important to her as a longtime resident familiar with area school districts.
“The county schools superintendent [race], Zack and Cathy; I have strong feelings about that race,” Tune said. “Parents’ rights, student-centered curriculum and budget decisions based on what’s best for kids — not political agendas.”
Participating in local elections is an essential part of civic life for Tune, who said she votes because of how much she cares about the county and surrounding area.
“I care a lot about this community,” she said. “I think it’s one of the few places left in California that’s halfway decent to live in.”
Leeann Lupo, a realtor for Keller Williams Realty in Sonora, said she was worried about the current direction of state politics, which informed her preferences among candidates.
“Overall, where the country and the state is right now is not going in the best direction, so it was really important that we voted,” Lupo said.
Lupo, who lives just outside the Sonora city limits, said she wishes she was able to vote in elections like that of the city council, given how much city policy affects the area. If she could, Lupo said she would have voted for city council candidate Suzanne Cruz and David Titchenal for District 2 county supervisor.
“I’m not in either one of their districts,” Lupo said. “I work in Sonora. We’re part of it. We live in a really small community at the end of the day, so I wish I could have voted for these people. But yeah, I have no voice for the City of Sonora, yet it affects my family.”
Robert Padilla, of Sonora, has lived in Tuolumne County since 1983. Padilla said that, despite voting Republican in the past, he voted Democrat down the ballot this year.
“After all the lies with Trump and the majority of Republicans believing it, or pushing it, I just feel like I can’t trust any of them,” Padilla said. “Especially with this January 6th thing that happened, I thought it was really close to having a revolt or a divided nation. I think actually we have a divided nation now. I don’t even call it the United States of America, I call it the ‘Divided States of America.’ ”
Rose Lenzo, who lives in Jamestown and has been a resident of Tuolumne County since 1982, also said her perspective on the Republican Party has changed in recent years.
“When did we forget why we came here to begin with?” Lenzo said. “[It was] because they weren’t allowed to have a faith that they chose. They weren’t allowed freedoms. And they came here so that you had the right to be who you were. It doesn’t seem to be that way anymore.”
Robert Rice, a pastor and small business owner in Sonora, said he is not particularly enthusiastic about either party, but he voted for all Republican candidates this year.
“The people in control of this state have ruined this state,” Rice said. “Every once in a while, I just don’t know what they’re thinking.”
Rice also said he experienced difficulty receiving a ballot via the mail this year, for the second year in a row, having to come in person to a voting center to cast his ballot.
Lynn Hobbs, a nurse for Adventist Health in Sonora, said rising gas prices, borders and gun rights are some of the hot-button issues for her this election cycle.
“I’m very unhappy with our president and the way things are going,” she said. “The economy… things have gotten really bad in the last few years.”
While not in favor of gun control legislation or politicians who support it, Hobbs said she hopes elected officials will focus their efforts on mental health support to help prevent mass shootings.
“I’m all for gun rights, although the mass shootings are horrible,” she said, “but I don’t think there’s any good way to control that, unfortunately. I don’t think taking away people’s guns are going to help at all.”
Dana Serpa, of Sonora, who voted for District 2 incumbent Ryan Campbell for supervisor, said she hopes to see a push for unity from those on the ballot this year.
“Just their honesty and working for the people,” Serpa said. “Trying to do what’s right for everybody. All of this separation we have going on is terrible. I don’t like it. It doesn’t have to be that way.”