County Supervisor Neil Derry left. Tribal Member James Ramos right.

BY IMRAN GHORI
STAFF WRITER
ighori@pe.com

Published: 06 June 2012 07:03 PM

Get ready for the sequel.

San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry and former San Manuel tribal chairman James Ramos will face each other again in November.

Their primary race was the most bitter and expensive of the county contests decided Tuesday, June 5.

Ramos, 45, a San Bernardino community college trustee, won about 47 percent of the vote, a few points short of the majority he needed to avoid a November runoff.

Derry, 43, got about 33 percent. Former Twentynine Palms Mayor Jim Bagley, 56, who was vastly outspent by Ramos and Derry, got 20 percent of the vote.

Ramos said the momentum is on his side.

“You have about 67 percent of the voters say they really do want a change other than the incumbent that’s there,” he said.

Derry on Wednesday said that he was taking a few days off from the campaign and declined to comment.

“I’m not doing interviews about the campaign,” he said.

The race was an increasingly negative one in which voters were blanketed with campaign mailers from Derry and Ramos attacking one other.

Derry called Ramos a tax cheat, sought to link him to a 2007 gang investigation at the San Manuel reservation and questioned whether as a member of the tribe he could truly represent county residents.

Ramos accused Derry of wanting to divide the community by injecting race into the campaign and attempting to make it partisan by highlighting Ramos’ Democratic affiliation.

He said his support on election night shows that voters are past those issues and want to “end this negative image that San Bernardino County has been plagued with.”

Ramos painted Derry as part of the county’s “chain of corruption,” reminding voters that Derry pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor campaign-finance violation. One mailer included jail mug shots of former county officials arrested on corruption charges, including Derry’s former chief of staff, Jim Erwin.

Ramos said he had to respond to Derry’s “drastically negative” campaign but only exposed “things that were factual and true.”

Derry has acknowledged that he went after Ramos first, scoffing at Ramos’ claim that he wanted a positive campaign.

He called the charges against him bogus, meant to hurt him politically and said it was legitimate to question whether Ramos is exempt from some taxes as a tribal member.

The campaign got strikingly personal at times. Last week, Derry accused Ramos of being caught taking down a campaign sign after he saw Ramos standing by the side of the road in Highland speaking to a sheriff’s deputy. Derry stopped to take a photo and the picture was posted on a website run by Erwin.

But the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said Ramos had stopped to fix one of his own signs and the deputy, who knew him, had just stopped to say hello.

Derry said Tuesday night that he believed he ran a good campaign but was outspent by his rival.

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