10:00 PM PDT on Thursday, September 29, 2011

BY JIM MILLER and IMRAN GHORI
STAFF WRITERS
jmiller@pe.com | ighori@pe.com

Promising a “clean break” from the county’s ongoing corruption scandal, Assemblyman Paul Cook announced Thursday that he will run for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.

Cook’s candidacy injects a new level of conflict into what, for months, has been a two-man contest for the redrawn Third District between Supervisor Neil Derry and James Ramos, the chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians near San Bernardino.

Cook, R-Yucca Valley, has to leave the Assembly next year because of term limits. He painted himself as the underdog going up against an incumbent supervisor and the leader of one of the state’s wealthiest gaming tribes.

“It’s just going to be a nasty campaign,” Cook said. “My opponents are going to have much more money than I do.”

Cook’s political future has been up in the air for months. Thursday, Cook left open the possibility of running for a desert congressional seat if Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, retires or seeks re-election in the adjoining district that includes his home.

Cook said he waited to announce his board candidacy until after the approval of redrawn supervisorial districts. His statement did not mention Derry or Ramos by name, but it clearly referred to Derry’s recent guilty plea in July to a misdemeanor violation of failing to report a campaign contribution.

“We need a clean break in the 3rd District in San Bernardino County,” Cook said in the statement. “People deserve a county supervisor who isn’t tied to scandal and someone who will be an independent voice.”

The race already has echoes of last year’s hard-fought contest in the county’s 2nd District. Cook’s former political consultant, Tab Berg, oversaw Janice Rutherford’s successful challenge of then-Supervisor Paul Biane. Derry’s consultant, Chris Jones, managed Biane’s campaign.

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