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Piepho keeps her seat; Houston concedes

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Wednesday, June 4th, 2008 at 1:47 am in 2008 June primary, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics.

With 100 percent of precincts counted, Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho beat back challenger Guy Houston, an outgoing Republican Assemblyman who had hoped to leverage his legislative resume to win a local job.

Piepho received 53 percent of the vote compared to 45 percent for Houston and held a comfortable 3,138-vote margin.

Houston called Piepho just after midnight and offered his congratulations.

From the beginning, it was a rough campaign. It fractured friendships and created hard feelings, particularly within Republican Party activists who had endorsed and campaigned for Piepho and Houston in prior races.

Emotions ran high between the candidates, too. Piepho once worked for Houston. He had encouraged and endorsed her 2004 supervisor candidacy and tried to persuade her to run for his Assembly seat.

But she declined to seek state office and Houston, who had dropped out of consideration for a congressional seat, set his sights on his former employee’s job. Several high-profile county officials who had clashed with Piepho in her first year in office, including Sheriff Warren Rupf, threw their support behind him.

On paper, Houston should have done better. Affable and well-spoken, he had strong name identification, ample campaign funds and plenty of potential campaign fodder.

The county faces steep budget woes bought on by retiree health care debt, a poor economy and state financial troubles. Piepho has angered constituents in some parts of the county with her moves to eliminate elected municipal advisory council positions, alter the zip code in Byron and establish a no-tow zone in a popular Delta slough. And some taxpayer groups say Piepho has been far too cooperative with employee unions and cozy with Democrats such as Sen. Tom Torlakson, who endorsed her candidacy.

But like glue that fails to harden, Houston’s campaign never quite stuck.

Republicans were divided and leading county Democrats generally preferred the less partisan Piepho over Houston. He had run three successful but hard-fought Assembly races and had operated for six years in a considerably more party-focused environment in Sacramento. The Board of Supervisors is nonpartisan although party politics do come into play.

Oil refineries, a real estate political action group and labor unions had spent more than $200,000 hitting Houston and promoting Piepho in glossy mailers. Houston survived the independent expenditure barrage in his Assembly races but the hits clearly took their toll on his supervisor candidacy.

The legislator also couldn’t shake from his record details of a civil lawsuit filed by several elderly investor who said he lost their money in bad business deals related to his father’s bankrupt company. Houston reached an undisclosed settlement last year.

Houston sent out negative mailers about Piepho but he came across as a mean-spirited cad rather than an experienced statesman. Supporters such as Sheriff Rupf tried in the last week to drum up votes with anti-Piepho mailers but they were too little and too late.

It’s a steep blow for Houston, who had never, until tonight, lost a campaign.

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  • rew golfer

    The old axiom, “never run agaisnt an incumbent”, seems apropriate here. Another political axiom that’s relevant, “All politics is local”.While Houston was making friends in Sacramento over the last several years, Piepho was making friends in her district, which was reflected in the vote totals.Given these long time axioms, I don’t think this was such an upset.Additionally, Piepho’s father, the late John Nejedly, was a revered, legendary figure in CC politics, people remember what a wonderful man he was. I think Piepho was helped by the legacy of her father.
    The Nejedly name has always been synonomous with public service.

  • http://CCTimes Suzanne Angeli

    Lisa,
    Don’t you think the reason Mary won is because people are really getting tired of termed out incumbent politicians who will do anything to have a political position. After all, Guy Houston was her mentor and then he turned against her, whether he agreed with her politics or not, where is his integrity? This is the same issue with Tom Torlakson and Mark DeSaulnier who turned against their one time friend Joe Canciamilla to conspire together to exchange positions so as not to be left out in the cold. I really don’t think people like when others loose all integrity just to have a political position. Sometimes term limits has created come very ugly politics.

  • Renegade GOP

    Funny when I think about Mary Piepho now I think of that charactor from the WWE called the Undertaker. The allies she made to win the election are frightening. An mark my word they will want their pound of flesh for the $219,000 they spent to save Mary.

    I am very sad that Guy Houston’s career has reached an impasss. He would have been a great leader for the county. But when the special interests pile in 219,000 in neagative ads it is hard to over come.
    Best of luck Guy.

  • Disco Baby

    It’s so sad that we have to have Piepo for another term. Guy Houston is a good man, would have been great for East County. He would have signalled an end to the collusion between husband and wife as they attempt to steal more of Byron land, and govern for themselves despite the pleas of the constituants they claim to represent.

  • Stunned in East County

    Tin foil hats all around for the sour grapes crowd!

    Steal more of Byron land?? The insanity never ends with some of these screwball suggestions.

    Through what twist of reality did you get that one?

  • Troublemaker

    “Disco Baby”? Do real people from Discovery Bay call themselves “Disco” anything? Makes me question where you are really from.

    Based on your post you have a considerable amount of wool pulled over your eyes. Why on earth would you have thought that GH would have given a rat’s rear end about East County? He did not think twice about his colleagues, fellow party members, senior citizens, blaming his father, or most importantly the difference between right and wrong. But you still think he would have been great and is a good man. Based on what? I think you set the bar a little low there. Open your eyes.

    The real gut buster is your suggestion of “stealing land from Byron”. Is there a Byron (agency/city/???)that land can be stolen from? Who is responsible for it (Byron) would be my first question? Stealing land seems a bit 1800′s. But if you say so it must be true especially with the lack of facts that you present with this accusation.

    If “husband and wife” are not representing their constituency and really governing for themselves how then do they continue to get re-elected by the people that they serve?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  • Patriot Johnny

    Quite frankly, both of them are of similar popularity/unpopularity. They also are both politicians ( kinda like attorneys ). Piepho won because of one thing and that was marketing. She had a campain staff that marketed her better than Houstons people. Of course, some of the mud slinging on both sides was very sleezy. However, the end result had nothing to do with termed out, or law suits, or raises, or what thier families were fighting about. It came down to campain marketing. Whats more important is, has she learned more from this experience that will benefit the taxpayer/residents or harm them. We shall see.