A Contra Costa County measure to tax and regulate marijuana businesses in a similar fashion to those dealing in alcohol and tobacco won by a wide margin in Tuesday's election.
Measure R needed support from a majority of Contra Costa County voters to pass, and more than 71% voters said Yes, according to the unofficial Election Night results.
The 4% tax is on gross receipts at cannabis businesses in unincorporated parts of the county, plus $7 per square foot of garden canopy for growing operations, is expected to generate between $1.7 and $4.4 million for the county's general fund depending on market factors.
Contra Costa County Supervisors John Gioia and Karen Mitchoff, both proponents of Measure R, argued that Measure R will reduce violent crime associated with illegal marijuana operations.
They also argued that funds it raises could fund strict enforcement of regulations on the local cannabis industry and be used to offset environmental and public safety costs associated with illegal cannabis operations, although general fund revenues can be used for other purposes as well.
The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association filed an argument in opposition to Measure R, saying it would likely come with unintended consequences that might include tipping marijuana market conditions in favor of foreign drug cartels.
They also pointed out that allowing marijuana operations would put the county at odds with federal law, which still prohibits marijuana.
The unofficial election results include early vote-by-mail tallies and totals reported by the precincts on Election Night. The election figures will likely change in the coming days as final vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots and other qualifying ballots are processed, according to the California Secretary of State.
In other races
* Catharine Baker appears to have retained a key seat for the Republicans in the State Assembly, with re-election to a third straight term representing the San Ramon Valley and the rest of District 16.
In a tightly contested runoff between the only two candidates from June’s primary, Dublin resident Baker finished Election Night with 51.2% of the vote compared to Democrat Rebecca Bauer-Kahan at 48.8%.
Baker sounded cautiously optimistic when reached Wednesday, saying, "My family and I are so grateful for the great energy and support that have helped us get where we are, but many votes remain to be counted before anyone decides who has won. That vote counting process is important and will take time."
A political newcomer and attorney from Orinda, Bauer-Kahan did pick up ground during the general election campaign (she lost the primary by 13.2%), but Baker’s incumbent campaign appears to have proved too popular for District 16 voters.
* On the national stage Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) handily defeated his opponent in the race to representative District 11, achieving nearly 72% of the vote for Republican challenger John Fitzgerald’s 28%.
Despite revelations of Fitzgerald being an admitted Holocaust denier, he was still able to acquire 43,053 votes.
* U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin), seen a young congressman who continues to rise within his party, controlled Election Night over challenger Rudy Peters, a Livermore Republican who owns a systems engineering firm geared toward the U.S. intelligence industry.
Swalwell, in his bid for a fourth consecutive term, earned 70% to Peters’ 30%
* In the race for Contra Costa Community College District Board of Trustees Ward 4, Jian "Andy" Li, soundly defeated former Mayor of San Ramon H. Abram Wilson by a margin of 11%.
Li, who has won his first election to public office, acquired 22,770 votes, good enough for 55.20% and a victory. Wilson trailed most of the night, only acquiring 18,478 votes, or 44.80%.
Li ran a campaign stressing his priorities of increase students success while reducing stress, promotion of cost effective online courses that offer students flexible schedules while improving vocational and professional training to teach students marketable skills. Priorities that clearly resonated with voters.
Ward 4 covers the areas of Blackhawk, Byron, Danville, Diablo, Discovery Bay, San Ramon, and parts of Alamo, Antioch, Brentwood, Clayton and Concord.
* Deputy superintendent Lynn Mackey has edged out Mt. Diablo school board member Cheryl Hansen in the runoff election for Contra Costa County’s new superintendent of schools.
By the end of Election Night Mackey acquired 11,360 votes, or 57.85%, overcoming Hansen’s 80,401 votes, or 42.15%.
An educator with 21 years of experience working with the superintendent’s office, Mackey campaigned on the promise that she would provide constituents a wealth of knowledge and experience on the Californian educational system, as well as the ability to keep schools fiscally sound.
Mackey will be replacing Karen Sakata, who earlier this year announced her retirement.
* Local residents appear to have voted for continuity in the race for the Contra Costa County Board of Education Area 4 seat (which includes most of the San Ramon Valley), with incumbent Mike Maxwell acquiring the highest number of votes by a narrow margin.
In a contentious race, Maxwell is ahead in his bid to secure another term on the board with 22,154 or 50.81% of the vote. Challenger John E. Crowder, who acquired 21,444 votes for 49.19%.
* The race for Contra Costa County Board of Education Area 2 (which includes parts of Alamo) was much less dramatic with Orinda school board member Sarah G. Butler handily winning over voters.
With all precincts reporting, Butler has achieved 67.08% of the vote with 31,828 residents casting their ballots in her favor. Butler’s challenger, local attorney Diddo Ruth Clark, placed a distant second receiving 15,621 votes, or 32.92%.
Both candidates were newcomers seeking to replace incumbent Christine Deane, who did not file for re-election.
* Incumbents won big throughout the San Ramon Valley on Tuesday night, and the race for Central Contra Costa Sanitary District did not prove different as both incumbents maintained the two available seats on the board.
By the end of the night incumbent David R. Williams had achieved the highest number of votes 47,522, or 42.78%, while fellow incumbent Michael Robert McGill secured a comfortable second with 42,863 votes, or 38.59% of the total. Both men will hold onto their seats having edged out challenger Stephen R. Maris, who earned 20,693, for 18.63%.
* Ann Marie Johnson and incumbent Georgean Vonheeder-Leopold came out victorious in the race for the two available seats on the Dublin San Ramon Services District, which provides water and wastewater services to Dublin and parts of San Ramon as well as sewer service to Pleasanton by contract.
Johnson secured the top spot followed by Vonheeder-Leopold who came in a comfortable second. Charles ‘Chuck’ Haupt was edged out of the top two spots finishing third, followed by James Brady who rounded out the ticket.
* In one of the San Ramon Valley’s smaller special district, residents turned out in force for the contested Diablo Community Service District race, with over 800 Diablo voters casting ballots for the contest.
A closely contested race Leonard S. Becker closed out as the top finisher with 238 voters, 28.61%, followed by Jeffery Eorio who earned 201 votes, 24.16%, securing two of the three available seats.
The third seat is too close to call with Greg Isom acquiring 197 votes or 23.68%, a single vote ahead of fourth place finisher Kelly B. Trevethan.
Editor's note: The information on county Measure R was provided by Bay City News Service.