BY IMRAN GHORI
STAFF WRITER
ighori@pe.com

Published: 21 May 2012 08:42 PM

For the first time in more than a decade, High Desert voters will choose from a field of candidates without an incumbent in the 1st District San Bernardino County supervisor race.

Seven candidates are vying to replace Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who is running for the 8th Congressional District seat, in the June 5 election.

Unless one of the candidates wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will go to a runoff election in November.

The vast district covers more than 17,000 square miles and includes the cities of Victorville, Apple Valley and Hesperia and stretches to the Nevada and Arizona borders.

Though Mitzelfelt is not making an endorsement in the race, he has ties to some of the candidates. Bob Smith, a retired county sheriff’s detective, has worked as a community liaison for Mitzelfelt. Michael Orme, a political and business consultant, is his former deputy chief of staff. Hesperia Mayor Russ Blewett served as Mitzelfelt’s appointee to the county Planning Commission.

The other candidates are Apple Valley Councilman Rick Roelle, Adelanto school board trustee Jermaine Wright, businessman Robert Lovingood and Bret Henry, a county fire captain and president of the union representing county firefighters.

The candidates have emphasized similar themes in their campaigns — jobs, repairing the county’s battered image and support for public safety. They have sought to distinguish themselves through their backgrounds.

Orme and Smith have touted their experience working in county government, while Roelle and Blewett cite their background in city government.

“I don’t think you need somebody who’s going to be learning on the job,” Smith said. “I think you need somebody who has shown the background and gets the job done.”

Campaign issues

The county corruption scandal that led to the arrest of several former county officials, including former 1st District Supervisor Bill Postmus, topped the list of concerns for candidates.

“I was tired of the corruption,” Wright said. “I was tired of my community being undervalued and people’s voices not being heard.”

Henry, Smith and Roelle, a sheriff’s lieutenant, have pointed to their backgrounds in public safety or the military as a sign that that they will bring integrity to the office.

All seven candidates say they want to see greater transparency in county government. All of the candidates except for Orme said they support a proposal to enact campaign contribution limits that the Board of Supervisors is considering.

Orme said he believes contribution limits don’t work and only increase third party expenditures.

When it comes to reducing unemployment in the district, several candidates emphasized the need for a more business-friendly environment. Wright, Smith and Lovingood said they’d like to see fewer fees and less regulation.

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