A few weeks after Election Day all the votes have finally been counted in Tulare County, and Tulare City Council member Carlton Jones has been defeated by challenger Steve Harrell.
With Harrell up by only 50 votes on election night, the vote tallies over the last few weeks tightened the race even further and kept it too close to call until the final county was released last week, with Harrell winning by only seven votes.
Harrell finished with 1,823 votes (50.1 percent) compared to 1,816 (49.9 percent) for Jones, and voter turnout reached 71% for the district, the county election office reported.
“I wasn’t running against anyone,” Harrell told the Visalia Times-Delta. “I was running on my merits and my experience and what I could do for the city of Tulare. I think we provided the voters with hope that change was possible.”
The results signal an end to the tumultuous race. In October, Jones admitted on Facebook to removing Harrell’s campaign sign at the Paige Truck Stop.
Harrell’s son Chris had been arrested by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office as part of its “To Catch a Predator” operation and was charged with a felony for meeting a minor for lewd purposes and a felony for contact with a minor for sexual offense.
Carlton pointed to the arrest as his motivation to remove his opponent’s sign.
“They don’t want signs made by a predator in front of there [sic] business,” Carlton wrote. “Not a good look.”
Outside of the campaign, Jones also had a rocky second stint on the Tulare City Council.
Jones and Tulare Police Department Lt. Jarod Boatman had altercations at council meetings in April and May 2019, which led to Boatman filing two complaints which alleged that Jones had created a hostile work environment.
Jones also faced several attempts from the public to recall him, none of which were successful.
However, Jones did resign from his position as Mayor in 2018 due to large public outcry following comments he made on social media about the agriculture industry:
“You’re having a conversation in your head,” Jones wrote on Facebook. “Ag depends on the people. Ag strips the natural resources and contaminates our ground water and air. Ag causes asthma and valley fever, cancer and kills bees. You can’t educate me. You’re trained. You can share with me what you’ve been trained to think. We can debate the difference between what you think and what I think.”