Carlton Wins Intense DA Contest

In a contentious Shasta County District Attorney’s race that featured plenty of verbal haymakers thrown by the candidates and their supporters, area voters have spoken for change as Steve Carlton defeated incumbent Jerry Benito.

Carlton collected 58.33 percent of the votes (19,982) to Benito’s 41.41 percent (14,186) to win in convincing fashion.

Carlton, 67, will return to a position he held as Shasta County DA from 1981 to 1990. Benito, 49, has been in the position since 2003.

Amid a lively group of supporters at the Holiday Inn, Carlton said he’ll usher in a change to the office that embraces justice for all, not just a few.

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“The district attorney represents all of the people, prosecuting the guilty, but also exonerating the innocent,” Carlton said. “The (election) team I have is just awesome. They’re not there just because of me. They truly feel this is for the benefit of Shasta County. We all think for the good of the community we needed to make a change.”

During the campaign, Carlton attacked Benito on many fronts, including the high turnover rate in his office, which Carlton said represented more than 300 years of experience. He also accused Benito of being a poor administrator who was more interested in convictions and less interested in balancing justice.

Benito accused Carlton of being out of touch with the current demands of the DA’s office and unequipped to handle the current cash-strapped environment.

The campaign also included heated debate on some prominent cases on Benito’s watch. One such case was the decision to not prosecute a man who struck Adam Martinez in the back of the head in a 2009 incident in a Redding bar. Martinez was in a coma and later died from the incident.

Carton also questioned Benito’s decision to pursue manslaughter charges against a 16-year-old girl in the death of a friend who died from alcohol poisoning. A judge later dismissed the case.

Tuesday night, as early election numbers flashed up showing Benito significantly behind, he defended his record on those prominent cases and many others.

“We’re evaluating five or six of those level of cases right now,” Benito said. “We encounter those types of cases every day. What’s most important is that we make decisions based on the facts of the law and not based on public opinion. Every time we make a decision we agonize over it and take a tremendous amount of time to think it through. I have no qualms and no second guessing about those decisions. They were the right decisions then and they still are.”

Benito said he’s proud of the changes he’s made since stepping into the office, including cleaning up the “dysfunctional” portions of the department and getting “great employees” into their current positions.

“We brought in the best employees and I’m really proud of them and the work they’ve done,” Benito said. “One of the worst parts is I won’t be enjoying the fruits of that labor.”

Benito had wide support for area law enforcement groups, including current sheriff Tom Bosenko.

Former sheriff Jim Pope, however, was a Carlton supporter.

“I know (Steve) is a man of integrity and ability and he wants to be district attorney for all the people of the county,” Pope said Tuesday night. “You look around here and see how much of the legal system is represented here (supporting Carlton) and that says a lot.”

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See more photos from Carlton’s and Benito’s election night parties.

Former Redding City Council member Michael Pohlmeyer, a Carlton supporter, called the evening a “great victory for the citizens of Shasta County.”

“Justice for all is not simply a campaign slogan,” Pohlmeyer said. “That will be a guiding tenant for his tenure as district attorney. God bless the voters of Shasta County for their good judgment.”

jim-dyar-125Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and the former arts and entertainment editor for the Record Searchlight’s D.A.T.E. section. Jim is also a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding. E-mail him at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com.

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is a journalist who focuses on arts, entertainment, music and the outdoors. He is a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding and can be reached at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com
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7 Responses

  1. Avatar Kathryn says:

    Thanks for this great story, Jim. I'm glad I live here, where my vote counts. This was an uplifting election season.

    • Avatar Mike says:

      I agree Kathryn. This win for justice lifted my spirits as well.

      I thank God for this community and the people in it.

  2. Avatar Susan Daugherty says:

    This particular win brought a smile to my face. I love when we get it right.

  3. Avatar James Michael Alliso says:

    Thanks for the information, Jim. Looks like Redding made some good choices yesterday.

  4. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Congrats to Steve Carlton and a big thank you to all those who chose him over a failed D.A. who wouldn't take his shoes off, little lilly- livered Jerry. Maybe you'll have a better time in private practice Benito. But remember, You'll still have to take out your metal at the court house door and promise to tell the truth.

    You be good now Jerry !

  5. Avatar Earl Allen Boek (Cit says:

    I too was uplifted and impressed with the wisdom of the Shasta County Citizens.

    I just stopped by to say what a pleasure it was to meet our next DA Steve Carlton,
    members of his family and supporters in person last night.

    I would like to tell him how much I actually enjoyed playing my part in his win,
    as I wondered at times if he enjoyed the ruckus I was causing defending him
    here and on the RRS website and with other social media and their followers

    I feel just a little guilty about attacks I made on DA Jerry Benito because most of
    my life experiences really, were with deputies of his office, not him personally
    and the fallout from a couple of those brushes with his JUST-US system.

    Still if you get up in the morning and pray that God uses you in HIS way, then
    he actually does and has already provided you with the inside knowledge or
    personal experiences you need to be a factor in a matter, I guess you should
    not really be too surprised when your placed right in the middle of a battle for
    justice, righteousness and goodness.

    EAB

    • Avatar Mike says:

      Earl:

      It was great meeting you at the Carlton function. Your words have always been thoughtful and incisive. It's funny how justice always brings good people together, as it should.

      You've been supporting the right man. Soon, everyone in the county will know.