Primary Election Pits Supervisors Against Hopefuls

RIVERSIDE – Three Riverside County supervisors in today’s election are defending their seats against challengers, including one race pitting the incumbent against a former colleague in the state Legislature.

Supervisor John Benoit is squaring off against termed-out Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez in the primary race, which will determine who represents the county’s Fourth District for the next four years.

Benoit, appointed to represent the district in 2009 following the death of Supervisor Roy Wilson, was elected in his own right in 2010.

Perez was elected to the Assembly in 2008, serving his first term at the same time Benoit was serving as a state senator from the Coachella Valley.

The supervisorial race between the two men is expected to be a tight one, with their respective campaigns touting a plethora of endorsements. Benoit has the support of most elected county officials, while Perez has endorsements from a number of union organizations and desert-area council members.

Benoit, who served as a highway patrolman prior to entering state government, has pointed to a pro-business record and support for ”public safety and infrastructure investments” in seeking a second full term.

The incumbent led efforts to ensure the county received revenue from solar power projects planned in the Fourth District, which stretches from Palm Springs to Blythe. The undertaking was not without controversy, resulting in a lawsuit by solar power providers, who characterized the imposition of fees as a ”sun tax.” The two sides eventually settled.

Perez, who worked as an educator and served on the Coachella Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees prior to becoming a lawmaker, has held himself out as a ”coalition builder” in the Assembly.

According to his campaign, Perez worked to obtain federal funds in support of the state’s manufacturing and high-tech industries. Though the outgoing assemblyman is running on a platform of helping ”to protect small business and give them the tools to grow,” he does not count any pro-business or taxpayer advocacy groups among his list of endorsees.

Benoit, however, did receive an endorsement from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association.

In the Second District, Supervisor John Tavaglione, entering his 20th year on the Board of Supervisors, is facing a challenge from Jurupa Valley educator Arthur Gonzales.

The incumbent, who is expected to sail to a sixth term, has highlighted his backing of the UC Riverside School of Medicine, support for a balanced budget and votes for increasing the number of sheriff’s deputies on patrol as a few of the reasons to return him to office.

Though he boasts of standing against tax increases, the supervisor has not consistently opposed fee hikes. In 2011, he voted against allowing refunds of application fees imposed on county property owners who prevail in assessment appeals.

Gonzales, who has worked as a substitute teacher most of his adult life, has cited reducing juvenile truancy and increasing educational opportunities for youth generally as top concerns. The Jurupa Valley resident did not file a candidate statement and is spending less than $1,000 on his campaign, according to the Registrar of Voters’ Office.

In the Fifth District, Supervisor Marion Ashley is seeking a fourth term. The San Jacinto Valley native is facing a challenge from Beaumont resident Mark Anthony Orozco, a Pomona-area educator and former member of the Beaumont Unified School District Board of Trustees.

In his third term, Ashley has pushed for increasing sheriff’s patrols and has been a leading voice for expanding local jails, proposing a multi-point plan with Supervisor Jeff Stone to ensure the county has adequate correctional space in anticipation of rapid population growth countywide.

Ashley has also taken the lead in coordinating a local-state-federal effort to develop a ”bypass” route along Interstate 10 between Banning and Whitewater to get motorists off the artery when it becomes jammed going east or west.

Orozco has questioned the incumbent’s integrity, noting that Ashley has been a proponent of a large-scale warehousing project planned near Beaumont that critics say will dramatically increase traffic and pose a health threat as a result of degraded air quality from pollution.

Ashley has accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the ”Gateway” project developer.

Orozco’s platform includes supporting public-private infrastructure partnerships, ensuring ”safe drinking water” and standing behind regulatory reform.

The father of three has been at the center of controversy since his election last October as chairman of the Greater Riverside Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He and other members of the Board of Directors have been sued over what the plaintiffs allege was an ”illegitimate” election during which Orozco claimed to have a law degree despite there being no record of his ever having had any legal training, according to court papers.

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