Maggie Fleming just made history. Decisively.
Fleming, long considered by many to be the frontrunner in the race to become Humboldt County's next district attorney, charged out to an early lead with the first Election Day results and never looked back, ultimately taking a whopping 61 percent of the vote to become the first woman the county has ever elected to be its top prosecutor.
"It's been so wonderful," a tired but ebullient Fleming said by phone after midnight Wednesday from a gathering on H Street, where she celebrated with supporters as the votes were tallied, with each report from the elections office cementing the fact that she'd fended off three opponents to avoid a runoff election in November. "We've had such nice support from so many volunteers throughout the county and I'm so glad it went this way for them because they worked so hard and put in so many hours."
The race to become Humboldt's next DA was considered wide open after sitting District Attorney Paul Gallegos announced in November he wouldn't seek re-election, leaving no incumbent vying for the post for the first time in recent memory. Ultimately a field of four stepped forward, all of them former prosecutors who worked in Gallegos' office: Fleming, who spent 17 years as a deputy district attorney (including nine under Gallegos); Arnie Klein, a swashbuckling former prosecutor with decades of experience in courtrooms throughout the state; Allan Dollison, a decorated military veteran and former deputy district attorney; and Elan Firpo, the former high-tech engineer turned prosecutor who is the only candidate currently working under Gallegos.
All four hit the campaign trail hard, participating in a total of 14 debates and forums and appearing at events throughout the county. But Fleming quickly emerged as the candidate to beat in the race, earning endorsements from local officials, retired judges and a host of local attorneys. Law enforcement unions and officers seemed to unite behind her as well to the point that it became the chief criticism of her candidacy, with her opponents charging that she was so favored by cops that it would make it impossible for her to impose the checks and balances the office required.
Voters ultimately saw things differently, however, and when the dust settled on election night, Fleming had taken more than 60 percent of the vote in a four-way race, an almost unheard of feat. Firpo finished second, taking 25.8 percent of the vote but trailed Fleming by more than 7,500 votes. Neither Klein nor Dollison managed 10 percent of the vote.
While all four candidates pledged to reform the DA's office — increasing efficiency and finding revenue to hire new attorneys — Fleming's background and reserved personality resonated with voters. She raised a staggering $118,000 in total campaign contributions, pulling in donations of $100 or more from some 200 individuals to outraise her three opponents combined. In Fleming's words, she "got support from every group and every political party, and people who really never would have worked together on any other project." She said she's thankful, and will honor voters' confidence with hard work and dedication.
Fleming said she plans to immediately start studying up on the issues and working to get a handle on what the office's future budget will be. She said she'll reach out to Gallegos in the coming weeks, hopeful they can work together to make the transition as smooth as possible in January.
With a mandate from voters and history behind her, now the heavy lifting begins.