Contra Costa's diversities and disparities came into sharp focus during this election season's recent televised round-tables jointly produced by this newspaper, the League of Women Voters and Contra Costa Television.

Richmond City Council hopefuls vowed to fight crime and unemployment while Moraga's took positions on whether dogs should be on or off leash.

San Ramon Valley and Lamorinda school board candidates stressed unwavering commitment to the preservation of their districts' already extraordinarily high student test scores.

On the other side of the aisle, their western, eastern and Mt. Diablo school district counterparts described varying triage strategies as the continuing economic downturn wreaks havoc in their classrooms.

Yet, the vast majority of the more than 100 incumbents and aspiring public servants who participated in the forums took nearly identical support positions when asked about one or more of the tax measures on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Nearly every school board candidate supported Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's temporary sales and income tax hike measure. Most also endorsed as a consolation prize the competing Proposition 38, the tax hike authored by Molly Munger.

In comparison, a Los Angeles Times poll released Friday found 55 percent of likely voters support Prop. 30 while 52 percent oppose Prop. 38.


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Likewise, most of the city council and mayor candidates for the nine communities within the Contra Costa Fire District embraced -- some more reluctantly than others -- Measure Q, a $75-a-year fire safety parcel tax intended to avert the shutdown of up to 10 of the district's 28 fire stations.

Local candidates' relatively high support of tax measures makes sense. Most people run for local offices because they want to preserve or improve services, tasks made more difficult when money is scarce.

After all, you don't see campaign posters that read "More potholes now!" or "Fewer teachers makes for better-educated kids!"

laugh-in: Despite the bad economic times, the banter in CCTV's Martinez studios before the cameras rolled produced plenty of lighter moments.

Concord City Council hopeful and psychologist Harmesh Kumar tongue-in-cheek offered to take referrals of "troubled" candidates. "Couch chaser!" retorted challenger Terry Kremin with a smile.

Antioch Councilwoman Mary Rocha confessed she once threw stuff at her computer because it kept shutting off only to figure out that she had been kicking the on-off switch with her foot.

"I'm technologically challenged," she said. "Oh, I could tell you some stories!" Please!

Several candidates channeled Clint Eastwood's famous Republican National Convention monologue with an invisible President Obama.

Antioch mayoral candidate Wade Harper offered to debate the empty chair when challenger Mike Leon failed to show.

When Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor bailed at the last minute, some folks suggested placing a frozen turkey in his seat, a reference to the mayor's Thanksgiving ritual of wearing a turkey suit to raise money for a food bank.

Antioch City Council candidate Walter Ruehlig delivered the best microphone-check line: "It's great to be here! It's better than vacation!"

Nah, it wasn't.

But thanks to the generous candidates who participated; it is good for voters.

For an Elections Preview 2012 airing schedule or to access videos online, visit contracostatimes.com, smartvoter.org or contracostatv.org.

post-script: Astute viewers will note the tribute to Contra Costa Clerk-Recorder Steve Weir at the close of the Election Preview 2012 shows.

Yes, it's true. Weir says he will retire midterm in March after 24 years in office.

The Board of Supervisors will likely appoint someone to fill the two-year balance of Weir's term.

Three people have expressed interest in the job and there likely will be others. But unlike other recently retired elected county officials, Weir isn't grooming a successor.

Voters will decide, Weir says. Bravo.

AND FINALLY: Cowboy Libertarian blogger and former California GOP communications director Patrick Dorinson has a book out just in time for the election, called "It's Nut Cuttin' Time America!"

For the uninitiated, "nut cutting" refers to that pivotal moment in a male calf's life when the bull becomes a steer.

Liberal Bay Areaites may dislike Dorinson's politics but must admit he has gift for humor.

When describing his journey from Republican to Independent, he writes, "I have chased more false prophets than the ancient Hebrews in the Old Testament!"

Hmm. Could Dorinson be talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773, lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com, IBABuzz.com/politics or Twitter.com/lvorderbrueggen.