Shiva Frentzen, a Cameron Park computer services consultant, cruised to victory Tuesday night in a special election to replace ousted El Dorado County supervisor Ray Nutting.
After months of legal drama and bad blood over Nutting’s prosecution on political malfeasance charges, the District 2 supervisorial race ultimately turned on local growth and development issues.
Instead of the Nutting drama, the closely watched election swung on voters’ views on where the candidates stood on an unfolding building boom in western El Dorado County and developers’ plans for more upscale residential communities.
Nutting’s wife Jennifer, owner of a Pollock Pines hair salon and a fiery critic of her husband’s prosecution, was among six candidates running for the open seat after her husband was expelled from office by order of a Superior Court judge June 6.
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But she finished a distant fourth behind Frentzen and a second candidate, George Turnboo, who had campaigned on slow growth causes. Frentzen and Turnboo had also championed separate November ballot initiatives that seek to rein in suburban growth in the county east of Sacramento.
“The vote says that residents are paying attention,” said Frentzen as she and supporters celebrated the election returns at the ZacJack Bistro in Cameron Park. “They’re doing their research, and I’m the person with the experience and honesty integrity” to fill the open seat.
Frentzen, a member of the Cameron Park Community Services District, won with 31 percent of the vote with all 14 precincts reporting. She was followed by Turnboo, an automotive shop owner in the town of El Dorado, with nearly 19 percent. David Pratt, a winery owner in Somerset and Ray Nutting’s appointee to the county planning commission, was third with just more than 15 percent of the vote.
Jennifer Nutting was running fourth, with just more than 13 percent of the vote. Claire McNeal, and Chris Amaral were running fifth and sixth – each with about 11 percent of the vote.
Frentzen campaigned on protecting local water resources from developers and fighting plans to build 4,000 new homes in Marble Valley in El Dorado Hills and 1,000 more houses in a proposed Shingle Springs subdivision called San Stino.
She publicly embraced a November ballot initiative, Measure M, which would ban any new residential communities if the California Department of Transportation determines that any county stretch of Highway 50 was at or expected to reach gridlock west of Placerville.
Turnboo had endorsed another November growth initiative, Measure O. It would amend the county’s general plan to restrict higher density residential construction in Shingle Springs, Camino and Pollock Pines.
Turnboo, who was defeated in an election challenge to Ray Nutting, also campaigned on changing the county’s political culture. He suggested that voters wanted to move on from Ray Nutting and his legal challenges.
Nutting, 54, a four-term county supervisor, was acquitted on three felony counts in May for failing to properly disclose more than $70,000 in state income he received for fire prevention work on 340-acre timber ranch in Somerset. But visiting Superior Court Judge Timothy S. Buckley ordered him expelled from office because of misdemeanor convictions for improperly taking loans for $55,000 in bail money from two county employees and a construction contractor doing business with the county.
Jennifer Nutting had insisted in the race that she was running on her own qualifications and not to seek political revenge for her husband. She campaigned on attracting new businesses to the county while restricting new subdivisions. But she also made her husband’s legal treatment a major campaign issue.
Jennifer Nutting’s campaign signs called out for “Clean Government.” And her mailers sent to voters asked: “Will you help me with the important job of cleaning up our County government?” They then listed some things that needed to be cleaned up, starting with “the District Attorney’s wasteful and abusive failed publicity driven show trials.”
As his wife ran for his seat, Ray Nutting pursued unsuccessful appeals to stop the special election on grounds that he was unlawfully removed from office. The California Supreme Court ultimately rejected his claim.
Jennifer Nutting said Tuesday night she was “at peace” with the election results.
“This is what elections are about – giving people a voice,” she said as she joined supporters, including her husband, at a south county restaurant, Mike’s Grill. “We accept the outcome. I’m very proud of my husband for standing up and taking the fight. I’m proud of myself for jumping into this fray. I just wanted to do what’s right.
“I stepped out of my comfort zone and consider myself one of the luckiest people alive.”
Frentzen will take office immediately once the election results are affirmed. She would serve the last two years and four months of Ray Nutting’s term.
Frentzen said she will get to work on “planning within our limits” and managing the county’s “limited water, limited roads and infrastructure and where we put our resources for economic development, jobs and agriculture.”
She added: “The congratulatory calls are already coming in.”
Editor’s note (Sept. 10): This story has been corrected online to reflect that Measure M would ban new residential communities if Caltrans determines any county stretch of Highway 50 is at or expected to reach gridlock west of Placerville. The previous version misstated the criteria as east of Placerville.