The county’s most contested, grueling and divisive political race has come to an end, and as of Wednesday morning John D’Agostini appears to be the voters’ choice for El Dorado County sheriff.
With all precincts reporting shortly after 1:20 a.m. Wednesday, D’Agostini maintained his lead over opponent Craig Therkildsen — 51.16 percent to 48.55 percent.
Between 15,000 and 17,000 mail-in ballots, plus 1,300 provision ballots, have yet to be counted, according to Elections Systems Coordinator Joe Zitzelberger. The target for counting the mail-in ballots is late this week, possibly Saturday. Officials hope to have all election results certified shortly after.
The uncertainty didn’t dampen the festive mood at D’Agostini’s election night party. Friends, family and supporters crammed Placerville’s Cozmic Cafe to witness what they hoped would be a changing of the guard in local law enforcement.
D’Agostini, surrounded by his family, addressed his cheering constituents early Wednesday morning after all precincts reported in.
“I don’t know how to thank this team,” he said. “I am so humbled by everybody’s help, everybody’s support.”
Running on a platform of a customer service style of leadership, D’Agostini’s unofficial lead comes at a time when the Sheriff’s Department has come under increased scrutiny from the public, most recently for an undercover audio recording of D’Agostini, who was taped meeting with the local chapter of the Modified Motorcycle Association.
Both candidates pledged throughout their respective campaigns to work towards restoring dignity to the department.
D’Agostini presented himself as the “fresh eyes” necessary to fix any problems while Therkildsen touted his nearly three decades of experience in county law enforcement as evidence of his ability to get things done.
“We are going to make the culture change,” D’Agostini told his crowd of supporters. “It’s going to be a great thing for El Dorado County.”
When the first results were released shortly after the polls closed, it was Therkildsen who nabbed an early lead of less than 1 percent: 50.12 percent to 49.62 percent.
Although he was ahead in early returns, Therkildsen knew there were still many ballots to count.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “But I’m being tested every day. I’m used to being tested.”
Therkildsen’s supporters packed the candidate’s election party held at the Cameron Park Country Club. Therkildsen said he was touched by the outpouring of support he’d received, particularly from his endorsers.
“We have good supporters,” he said. “I think we’ve had a very good campaign … it meant a lot to have the people I work with come out and support me like this.”
The campaign, which started as a gentlemanly competition between D’Agostini and Therkildsen, took a detour from the issues in recent weeks.
As the race entered the home stretch, Therkildsen’s campaign issued mailers which were characterized by some as attacks on his opponent.
Meanwhile, two anti-Therkildsen Websites were created, both of which were criticized for defaming the sheriff’s captain’s character.
Both men insisted their campaigns never strayed from the higher ground, and D’Agostini attributed his Wednesday morning lead to running what he called a clean campaign.
“We did this the right way,” he said.