Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 06/15/2011 07:50:16 PM PDT

The largest labor union in San Bernardino County announced Wednesday it will endorse San Manuel tribal leader James Ramos for Third District county supervisor in 2012.

The San Bernardino Public Safety Employees Association’s reached its decision Tuesday night, during a meeting of its board of directors. Ramos spoke during the meeting and fielded questions from the board, said Bob Blough, SBPEA’s general manager.

More than 16,000 county employees comprise the SBPEA, and most of those employees constitute the county’s line staff spread across 28 cities and agencies in the Inland Empire and the county of San Bernardino. The union also represents employees who work in the cities of Banning, West Covina, Claremont and Pomona.

“I’m humbled that the largest employee base in the county is supporting me,” Ramos said Wednesday. “Coming out strong like this this early in the campaign really gives me momentum and encouragement to move forward and work hard.”

The news induced little reaction from incumbent Neil Derry, who was elected Third District Supervisor in 2008 after his campaign raised more than $700,000. More than half that was raised by the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association (SEBA), the union representing sheriff’s deputies, district attorney investigators and probation officers, among other public safety officials.

Ramos and Derry have both met with SEBA, but the union has not yet endorsed either candidate.

“I didn’t have SBPEA’s endorsement last election. I won without them,” Derry said Wednesday. “I’ll win without them again.”

The endorsement also came as no surprise to Derry’s campaign manager, Chris Jones. He said the SBPEA historically has leaned toward the liberal candidate.

The redrawing of boundaries for the five supervisorial districts, based on the 2010 U.S. Census population figures, should prove instrumental for Derry in the campaign, Jones said.

Derry’s district is expected to expand to the north and east, covering more of the San Bernardino Mountain region and the High Desert cities of Twentynine Palms and Needles, among other areas.

And the majority of that voting base, Jones said, is conservative Republican.

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