Darnell Turner received the most votes to secure a seat on the Los Medanos Community Health Care District board, even though he died in September.
In Tuesday's election, of which final results are still pending, Turner received 8,906 votes. Three candidates were vying for two seats on the district, which distributes community grants to support health and wellness services targeted to low-income communities in Pittsburg, Bay Point, Clayton, Clyde and unincorporated Antioch.
Incumbent J. Vern Cromartie was re-elected to his seat with 7,799 votes, followed by former district board member Joe Rubi, who received 5,619 votes. To fill Turner's spot, the district will either appoint someone or hold a special election, which would be expensive and have to be paid for by the district. There are 36,524 registered voters in the area served by the district, and a special-election ballot would have to be mailed to every voter.
Turner, a well-known community activist in East County, was up for re-election at the time of his death in early September. It was too late to take his name off the ballot.
Willie Mims, a longtime friend of Turner's, was among those who voted for him.
"The people I spoke to told me they voted for him out of respect," Mims said. "He was a friend. I had to vote for him."
So did his mother, Birdine Turner.
"I sure miss my child," she said. But she questions why others might cast a vote for him, even if they
"It makes sense for someone alive" to be elected, she said.
People vote for deceased candidates for a variety of reasons, according to Corey Cook, an associate professor and director of the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good at the University of San Francisco.
"So there's a combination of possible explanations -- people who might recognize the name but not know that he had passed away, which is certainly more likely in a low-intensity down-ballot (such as a special district) race, than say in a statewide race, then there are also likely people who wanted to honor him by voting symbolically for him," he wrote in an email.
Other motives can include just not liking the other candidates.
In Contra Costa, there was a previous case involving a deceased candidate. That happened in the June 1994 election when Gus Kramer and Dan Hallissy were competing for the assessor's office. Hallissy died shortly before the election and his name remained on the ballot, and voters elected Kramer to the office. In that election, incumbent Assessor John Biasotti so opposed Kramer that he urged voters to cast ballots for the deceased candidate.
Marilyn Condit, president of the district's board of directors, said board members will hold a special meeting to discuss appointing someone to the post or holding a special election.
"We have to make a decision," said Condit, adding that the board is still able to carry out its business and vote on grants and other matters with the current four members.
As far as Turner getting the most votes of the three candidates, Condit said it does reflect a way of honoring and remembering him.
"It kind of warms my heart to think the community thought so highly of him to vote for him in his honor. Now we'll be making a decision on how to fill his position. We've never had this happen before."
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/eastcounty_girl.