Merced County Times Newspaper
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Saini-Donabed surges way ahead in race for seat on Superior Court


Monika Saini-Donabed, a local judge pro-tem and native of Livingston, appears on her way to making some regional history if election results continue in her favor.

In the race for the only open seat at Merced County Superior Court, Saini-Donabed leads with 10,133 votes, or 61.28 percent of the total vote tally. Her closest challenger is Carlos Dammeier, a state administrative law judge from Southern California. He currently holds 3,688 votes, or 22.30 percent. Regina Adams, a Merced lawyer who handles cases in the Public Defender’s office, received 2,714 votes, or 16.4 percent.

If Saini-Donabed wins this race outright, by garnering more than 50 percent of the vote at the conclusion of the Primary count, she will become the first woman of Indian descent to serve on the Merced County Superior Court bench in its 150-year history.

“We worked really hard in our ground game,” Saini-Donabed told the Times during her Election Night watch party at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Merced.

“I was nervous yesterday, but today I was very at peace because I felt that I did everything that I could up to this point, and it was now in the voters’ hands, and I was ready to accept the results as they were. It was great to have my friends and my family members around to share this moment.”

The event for Saini-Donabed was large on Tuesday night, with up to 200 people showing up.

She thanked supporters for being part of the journey and called it a community effort.

“I’m grateful that people put their trust in me, and hopefully I will have the opportunity to hold onto that trust by serving the community from the bench with hard work and dedication.”

She added, “I love the court. I love the job. I love Merced County. I really wanted this. I knew nobody could outwork me in the campaign. My passion for it … The way I ran this campaign is the way I serve the community. This is my calling.”

The candidate also commented on a bit of a controversy that broke a week or so before Tuesday’s Primary vote.

“We found out about 10 days ago that one of my opponents, Carlos Dammeier, was running for a judge’s seat in two separate counties simultaneously,” she said.

While it’s perfectly legal for Dammeier to do so — Superior Court judges do not have to live in the district they preside over — Saini-Donabed remarked: “I think that is really a disservice to a community and its voters, when you promise you would serve them if elected, and then you don’t hold that promise. … Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something. If you are running for an office, you should generally want to serve in that specific office, and you want to serve that specific community.”

Early elections results this week showed Dammeier was way behind in a San Bernardino race for an open judicial seat, with 24.3 percent of the vote compared to candidate Michelle Lauron’s  75.5 percent of the vote.
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