Supervisor Neil Derry left. San Manuel Tribal Member James Ramos right.

Election 2012

Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/19/2012 06:01:36 PM PDT

Things don’t appear to be slowing down one bit in the contentious race for San Bernardino County’s 3rd District supervisorial seat in the June 5 primary election.

Outspoken incumbent Neil Derry has sharply criticized one of his two opponents, former San Manuel tribal Chairman James Ramos, saying Ramos doesn’t have the political background to serve a constituency of roughly 407,000 people.

Jim Bagley, a former Twentynine Palms councilman and three-time mayor, is the third candidate in the primary race.

The geographically diverse district includes parts of the San Bernardino Valley, the San Bernardino Mountains and the High Desert. Redistricting based on new Census figures has expanded the district to include the Morongo Basin and the cities of Twentynine Palms and Barstow.

Derry doesn’t believe Ramos, whom he calls a “liberal Democrat,” is a good fit in a district with a heavy conservative base.

“If you don’t have the right message and the right background, it doesn’t matter how much you spend. I fit the district well. Mr. Ramos does not,” Derry said. “Ramos has no municipal government experience.

“His only experience is being chairman of the San Manual Band of Mission Indians and serving on the (San Bernardino Community College District) board, and that’s it. He has no land use experience.”

Ramos’ camp has criticized Derry, saying Derry has not led by example and arguing he campaigned for supervisor in 2008 on a platform of government transparency and ethics, but was charged by the state Attorney General’s Office last year with three felonies for allegedly laundering a $5,000 campaign contribution from a Highland developer.

Derry pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor for failing to report the contribution and prosecutors dropped the felonies, allowing Derry to retain his seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Derry denies doing anything wrong, and said he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor to put the matter behind him so he could get back to serving the citizens he represents.

Ramos announced his candidacy for supervisor the day after prosecutors announced that Derry had been charged.

“I believe if the voters want to stop the corruption in San Bernardino County, they’re going to have to start choosing people who are basically ethical in their very nature, and that is James Ramos,” said Betsy Starbuck, Ramos’ campaign manager and the county’s former assistant auditor-controller-recorder.

Mudslinging aside, Ramos’ wealth from income generated by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino has allowed him to spend generously on his campaign, which makes the 3rd District supervisorial race unique.

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