8.18.2010

TS - Gallegos, Jackson running neck-and-neck for Humboldt County DA: Runoff seems likely

Gallegos, Jackson running neck-and-neck for Humboldt County DA: Runoff seems likely
Salzman and Gallegos in pic
While the race to become Humboldt County's next district attorney was too close to call at the Times-Standard's deadline Tuesday, it appears challenger Allison Jackson is headed toward a runoff with two-term incumbent Paul Gallegos.

Based on early returns -- with about 62 percent of precincts reporting and 25,422 votes counted -- Jackson and Gallegos were running neck-and-neck, with 37 and 39 percent of the vote, respectively. Hagen was running a distant third, with less than 19 percent of the vote.

The race initially saw three challengers looking to unseat Gallegos: Jackson, Paul Hagen and Kathleen Bryson, who withdrew from the race in April but whose name still appeared on the ballot. As of late Tuesday night, it appeared none of the candidates was going to receive the 50 percent plus one vote needed to win the election outright and avoid a runoff in November.

Even after having withdrawn from the election months ago, Bryson received about 5 percent of the early vote.

With less than half of precincts reporting, Jackson said in a phone conversation from a joint election night event held with Sheriff candidate Mike Downey that she was still waiting for McKinleyville and Fortuna precincts to report, which she believed would swing in her favor.

”I'm guardedly optimistic,” she said. “But, I feel really, really good.”

From his campaign party at Gabriel's restaurant in Old Town Eureka, Gallegos too said he was feeling confident as of 11 p.m. Tuesday night.

”We feel really good,” he said. “I would say no real surprises, but however it plays out, it plays out. The night is still young.”

At his campaign headquarters, surrounded by a handful of supporters as the first returns came in Tuesday night, Hagen struck a more somber note, saying he was proud of the positive campaign he ran, even though he conceded it was unlikely he would make up the votes necessary to move forward to a runoff in November.

”I made my peace either way before tonight,” Hagen said.

Hagen, who made his name as an environmental prosecutor, served as a circuit prosecutor under the Environmental Circuit Prosecutor Project of the California District Attorneys Association trying environmental cases in Humboldt, Del Norte and Lake counties. After spending his recent years working with the local firm of Bragg, Perlman, Russ, Stunich and Eads, Hagen decided to run for district attorney, promising to bring a new level of professionalism to the office and to rein in the practice of plea bargaining.

Jackson, who spent a decade working as a deputy district attorney in Humboldt County until leaving the office in June 2004, has spent recent years working as a partner in Eureka's Harland Law Firm, where she has handled a wide variety of civil cases.

On the campaign trail, Jackson has been sharply critical of Gallegos, saying he has failed as an administrator and essentially has been soft on crime by allowing some “mind-boggling” plea bargains to occur on his watch. If elected, Jackson contended that she has the experience to properly supervise and mentor the office's deputy district attorneys, that she would cut down on plea bargains and protect victims' rights.

Gallegos, who was first elected to the office in 2002, has maintained on the campaign trail that his office has done good work -- work that he'd like to continue. He said that he has helped bring his office into the 21st century by updating its records systems and revamping its investigative unit. The office, Gallegos said, has also won some big cases and put a host of violent, dangerous offenders behind bars.

Both Jackson and Gallegos said they made no final campaign push Tuesday, and instead spent their days at work and doing other things.

”It went to jury at 7 a.m. (Tuesday) morning,” Jackson said.
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At a Glance: Preliminary results with 62 percent of precincts reporting
Paul Gallegos: 39 percent
Allison Jackson: 37 percent
Paul Hagen: 19 percent
Kathleen Bryson: 5 percent
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