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DA, Supervisor & Sheriff Face Election Challenges On June 3 In Napa County

Supervisor Diane Dillon visiting valley's vineyards. Credit: Diane Dillon for Supervisor - 2014.
Supervisor Diane Dillon visiting valley's vineyards. Credit: Diane Dillon for Supervisor - 2014.
Napa County's district attorney, sheriff and District 3 supervisor face challenges to re-election on June 3.

Supervisor Diane Dillon, whose district includes Calistoga, Yountville and St. Helena, is running against Yountville Councilman and business owner Lewis Chilton.

District Attorney Gary Lieberstein is running against his Chief Deputy District Attorney Thomas Kensok and criminal attorney and former Deputy District Attorney Douglas Pharr.

Sheriff-Coroner John Robertson faces a challenge from retired undersheriff Brian Banducci.

Lieberstein, who has been Napa County District Attorney since 1998, claims Napa County's misdemeanor and felony conviction rates are higher than the Bay Area's and the state's averages.

His priorities are developing gang prevention programs, background checks and annual licensing of in-home care givers to prevent elder abuse, improving the local mental health system's resources, aggressively prosecuting serious and violent offenders and creating alternative sentencing programs for low-level and first-time offenders.

Pharr, now in private practice, was the Napa County District Attorney's Office's gang crimes prosecutor between 1999 and 2007. He says he will bring results as a prosecutor, not a politician, and the District Attorney's Office needs new leadership.

Pharr said he will not allow public pressure to determine charging decisions, and he favors the state law that will allow non-citizens to obtain identification/driver's license-like card as a valid privilege to drive. Pharr says the communication and trust between law enforcement and the district attorney's office need improvement.

"Politics and bias will not be part of the equation, instead decisions will be based on common sense and the law," Pharr said.

Kensok, a prosecutor in the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office for 25 years, said the Napa County District Attorney's Office's recent conviction rate is only 43 percent, the second worst in the Bay Area.

Kensok said 27 percent of felony cases are reduced to misdemeanors, and 30 percent are reduced outright. He said the Napa County District Attorney's Office must make sound decisions before bringing a case to court and then stand by its decision to prosecute.

Kensok said he has trained dozens of new and veteran prosecutors, and as a gang prosecutor he worked with law enforcement to reduce the number of gang-related murders.

The Napa County Sheriff's race has been a low-key affair.

Napa County Sheriff John Robertson, 55, was appointed in 2012 when Sheriff Doug Koford retired. His campaign emphasizes his law enforcement experience since 1981 when he joined the San Mateo Police Department.

He transferred to the Napa County Sheriff's Office in 1991.

Brian Banducci was in the Napa County Sheriff's Office for 31 years before retiring as undersheriff in 2013. Banducci said he has built a reputation as someone who collaborates with state, local and federal partners.

Banducci was the American Canyon police chief for more than four years. He says Napa County needs a sheriff with his leadership, partnership and vision.

Supervisor Diane Dillon, of St. Helena, is seeking her fourth term as the District 3 representative once her current term expires this December.

She lists her accomplishments as protecting Napa Valley's water resources, advocating responsible, sustainable growth, locating commercial and other urban uses in cities and towns, and supporting public safety programs and the local economy.

She also has been an advocate of agriculture, tourism and resource conservation. She says she will oppose a Las Vegas-style casino anywhere in the county.

Dillon has been endorsed by the Napa County Farm Bureau, Sierra Club's Redwood Chapter, North Bay Association of Realtors and labor and trade councils, among others.

Dillon said the key issue is finding adequate affordable housing for employees of Upvalley cities and towns.

Lewis Chilton, Vice Mayor of Yountville, is an advocate for protecting Napa County's rural character, agricultural economy and open space and encouraging growth within the county's urban growth boundaries.

Chilton said the county's half-cent tax to repair roads isn't enough because it takes effect in 2018, and District 3's roads are some of the worst in the state.

Chilton said having only one supervisor in the Upvalley area lessens the focus on agriculture and preservation.

In a contest with more than two candidates, such as the district attorney race, if none of the candidates receive a majority of the votes, the top two vote getters will face off in a November run-off, Napa County Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk John Tuteur said.

The other Napa County candidate races require a majority vote.

--Bay City News

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