San Benito sheriff race drama finally over

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Hollister- Darren Thompson is the new sheriff as he opened up an
early lead election night and never trailed, according to
unofficial results.
Hollister- Darren Thompson is the new sheriff as he opened up an early lead election night and never trailed, according to unofficial results.

Thompson ran away with the election with nearly 56.5 percent of the vote as of the close of counting Tuesday. His opponent, Undersheriff Pat Turturici, received around 43 percent.

Thompson, a Watsonville police lieutenant, steadily increased his lead throughout the night as results were released but he continued to believe it wasn’t over and that one precinct could evaporate his margin.

But that all changed at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, when all the votes for the night were finally tallied and Thompson couldn’t wipe away a smile.

“I’m a little numb right now,” Thompson said.

“This is the end of a journey 10 months in length. I kept not allowing myself to imagine what it would be like to be sheriff, and it allowed me to keep my focus campaigning.”

That celebration culminated a tumultuous race. As campaigns hit their high gear in the final weeks before the election, Turturici ran into an array of roadblocks. The undersheriff dealt with the county deputy sheriff’s association and two other neighboring unions pulling their endorsements of him, an internal investigation called by Sheriff Curtis Hill in relation to allegations Turturici threatened office employees in regard to the race, and the infamous “No on Turturici” sign that became the subject of questions and allegations over who posted it, and whether it was legal.

Thompson finally rejoiced late Tuesday and envisioned himself as being sheriff after all of the night’s votes were counted, aside from about 3,000 provisional and absentee ballots left to tally.

The two candidates stayed strong in their campaigns’ focus. Turturici talked mostly about gang prevention, and Thompson continually expressed a desire to build the character of the department.

Thompson admitted that the campaign was rough.

“It kind of reminded me when you’re out in the high country and you’re thinking about going out for a swim, and some idiot tells you to get into the water,” he said. “It’s not that cold? It’s that cold, let me tell you. It’s been cold water.”

Turturici’s election party, at Paine’s Restaurant, was filled with family and friends. Once Turturici appeared, he told one of his supporters to ask a reporter and photographer from the Free Lance to leave his campaign event because it was a private party.

Afterward, Turturici did not return phone calls before publication.

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