The winner of the competitive race for Contra Costa County clerk-recorder is set to take the helm of the often overlooked yet critical office at the start of the new year.
Kristin Connelly emerged as a top contender for county clerk-recorder amidst a relatively crowded race in the June primary election, finishing in first place out of the four-candidate pool which led to a runoff against second-place candidate Vicki Gordon on Nov. 8.
In the final ballot count -- certified by current Clerk-Recorder Debi Cooper's office on Dec. 2 -- Connelly was selected by 169,622 Contra Costa County voters, coming out with 53.47% of the vote to beat out Gordon's 46.53%.
"I am so grateful to have been trusted by the voters of Contra Costa to be our county's next Clerk-Recorder and Registrar of Voters," Connelly told DanvilleSanRamon. "During the 13 months of campaigning, I learned so much from talking with residents in all corners of Contra Costa about their experiences with the office."
With the clerk-recorder's office serving a range of functions ranging from marriage and death certificates, as well as overseeing the counting and certification of election results for county races, this year's candidates found themselves front and center in conversations about election security, voter fraud, and misinformation that have ramped up in the age of online conspiracy theories.
Connelly said that continuing the fight against misinformation around elections would continue to be at the top of her priority list upon taking office on Jan. 2.
"Increasing access to voting, fighting all types of misinformation and ensuring continuity of service during disasters are three areas that will be a focus once in office," Connelly said.
Gordon, who emerged as Connelly's top opponent and boasted name recognition from a number of roles in county politics -- most recently as trustee for the Contra Costa Community College Governing Board before being ousted by challenger Judy Walters in the 2020 election -- ran on a similar platform with similar goals if elected, including an emphasis on outreach and education in all of the office's functions.
"It could be a lot worse," Gordon told DanvilleSanRamon. "I think Kristin will do a fine job. I wrote her a note congratulating her and wishing her well as our next clerk-recorder, but I think there were some areas I was particularly strong in, and people are disappointed."
But despite a shorter political career than Gordon's, Connelly boasted similar fields of experience to Gordon's, including as a trustee for the Acalanes Unified School District, and said she was particularly attracted to the clerk-recorder's seat after her experiences as a law student at the height of a previous wave of controversy and misinformation over elections, shortly after the Supreme Court's Bush vs. Gore decision in 2000.
With her term at the Acalanes school district coming to an end, Connelly is also poised to leave her post at the East Bay Leadership Council (EBLC), where she's served as president and CEO for more than eight years. Highlights of her work there have also included a focus on elections, she noted.
"It's been an honor to work on so many meaningful issues," Connelly said. "Five years ago we launched a non-partisan candidate training program to help local business leaders run for elected office and just this year launched a program to match East Bay business leaders with non-profit organizations seeking new board members."
EBLC officials are currently conducting a search for Connelly's successor, with Mark Orcutt appointed to the position on an interim basis in the meantime.
"We are thankful for Kristin's unwavering leadership and are focused on a smooth transition in the months ahead," EBLC Board Chair Leo Scott said.
Connelly said that she was optimistic about the transition process at both EBLC and the clerk-recorder's office upon her start in the new role.
"The hardworking staff of the Clerk-Recorder Division and the Election Division have committed to a thoughtful transition for which I am so grateful," Connelly said. "I admire the ways that they have resumed outreach and other public facing activities that were curtailed because of COVID-19 and look forward to supporting those efforts. Working to ensure adequate resources for both divisions within the Department will be my top priority once my term starts on January 2nd."