Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Appointed Fresno Co. clerk Orth says she’ll seek election to post

Brandi Orth has been around elected officials for a long time. Now, she’s going to try and become one herself.

Orth, 57, announced Wednesday that she will seek the post next year of Fresno County Clerk, a job best known for voter registration and overseeing county elections, but one that comes with other tasks as well, including conducting civil marriage ceremonies.

Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth

And, yes, it’s true: Orth already holds the job.

But she was appointed — and not elected — by a unanimous vote of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors in January 2012. Her selection came a week after former Clerk Victor Salazar unexpectedly resigned.

At the time, Orth was a policy analyst who worked for the county administrative officer — a position that worked closely with the five elected supervisors. Before that, Orth worked for a decade in the clerk’s office.

“I realized all the work experience and career path had prepared me for this job,” she said Wednesday at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in downtown Fresno after being introduced by Supervisor Phil Larson.

So this will be Orth’s first run for elected office.

Still, she had to hit the ground running after her appointment, as 2012 was a presidential election year. This year — normally a quiet off year in the election cycle — has proved to be equally busy, with three unscheduled elections.

The big question in whether Orth will get face any challengers for the post, which currently pays $121,442 annually.

Like Orth, Salazar was appointed to the post to replace Susan Anderson, who left the office after winning a seat on the county Board of Supervisors.

That was in January 2001.

The next year, Salazar had an opponent — and beat him. But in 2006 and 2010 re-election bids, Salazar was unopposed.

New Super-PAC to help Central Valley GOP congressmen

Former Republican Congressman Richard Pombo is heading up a newly formed Super PAC, which will focus on electing — or keeping in office — Central Valley-based Republican and conservative congressmen.

The federal political action committee will be known as Empower Central Valley. Pombo is the chairman — and its public face. As with so many other such independent organizations, everyone else — including donors — will remain anonymous.

Richard Pombo

But Pombo, a Tracy cattle rancher, did say that “ag interests are all gearing up to get involved.” He said many contribute significant amounts of money to Republican causes and committees, but the money ends up being sent to out-of-state candidates.

“With other PACs, very little is spent in California,” Pombo said. “They raise money here, but spend it in Ohio.”

Empower Central Valley, he said, will spend its money in the Valley.

The first order of business is ensuring that Hanford Republican David Valadao in the 21st District and Turlock Republican Jeff Denham in the 10th District hold on to their respective congressional seats. The two have earned the PAC’s initial endorsements.

Both will almost certainly be Democratic Party targets next year. Beyond that, the PAC will look to get involved in other Valley races that may be competitive, be they working to keep a Central Valley Republican in office or hoping to oust a rival Democrat.

The PAC’s initial budget, based on the current targeted seats, is $1.2 million, Pombo said.

“We can expand, based on need,” he added.

The PAC is, by law, independent of the candidates it supports.

It is permitted to raise unlimited funds and in turn advocate for the election of federal candidates.

Fresno County updates its vote count; little is changed in races

Fresno County on Friday did its first vote-count update since Tuesday’s election, and not much has changed.

Everybody who was leading on election night is still leading, and no challengers have significantly closed any gaps.

For instance, on election night Republican challenger Mitt Romney had 50.72% of the vote and President Barack Obama was at 47.13%. Now, Romney is at 50.37% and Obama at 47.45%. That means Obama has shaved about two-thirds of a percentage point off of Romney’s initial lead.

Fresno County counted 19,000 absentee ballots and has 78,000 still to count. Of those, around 54,000 are absentee, and the rest provisional.

“It’s going to take us days,” Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth said.

In Tulare County, around 20,000 absentee and 10,000 provisional ballots remain to be counted, and in Kings, it is 1,500 provisional ballots.

Madera County doesn’t do updates until it completes its count, but Clerk Rebecca Martinez said Friday that around 4850 ballots remain to be counted. Almost half are provisional, with the rest absentee ballots.

The race to watch in Madera County is the District 3 supervisorial race to replace incumbent Ronn Dominici, who chose not to seek re-election after 12 years on the board.

On election night, just eight votes separated Madera City Council Member Gary Svanda and businessman Rick Farinelli, with Svanda holding the slight lead.

Martinez said District 3 has 1,041 absentee ballots and 545 provisional ballots to count.