It doesn't matter if it's Mayfield versus Joyner, Turoci versus Kathy Davis or Mitzelfelt versus Vogler, the contest for San Bernardino County's first supervisoral district seat always seems to get heated. And this year's election is no exception.


But while contestants of yesterday may have been fighting for control of a vast empty space of tumbleweeds and Joshua trees, today's politicians are wrestling over an increasingly viable and fast-growing region. Surely, real estate sales have been down, but when the High Desert rebounds its land will rise in value as will the area's importance in the state.


The biggest indicator of the first district's importance is that incumbent Brad Mitzelfelt, who was appointed to his seat after former Supervisor Bill Postmus won the assessor's contest, already has spent a whopping $480,252 of his reported near $1 million election war chest. That half million dollars demonstrates how concerned Mitzelfelt and his supporters are about the challenge of Rita Vogler, who has proven over the past 10 years to be one of the most popular politicians in Hesperia.


The Mitzelfelt campaign wants to make sure he wins the contest outright. If he fails to receive at least 50 percent of all votes cast, he will have to face a run-off, most likely with Vogler. Such an occurrence could be expensive and its outcome unpredictable. And despite her underdog status, Vogler is not without support: Several weeks ago she received an important endorsement from the San Bernardino County Sun newspaper.


The nearly half million dollars Mitzelfelt has already spent represents contributions from the district's powerful movers and shakers who want to ensure their continued grasp on the county's future. And, of course, Mitzelfelt and his staff, several of whom are extremely well-paid compared to their non-governmental counterparts, want to keep their good pay going.


But if Vogler were elected, she too would enjoy a handsome salary, as would her future chief of staff and support personnel. Contrary to her nemesis, however, Vogler, who owns a Hesperia travel agency, hasn't depended on a governmental salary for her livelihood. In fact, the Vogler family has done quite well. Would the addition of a well over six figures salary as a county supervisor change her perspective, however?


Also in the race are Robert Conaway and Bob Nelson, the latter a longtime gadfly of the board of supervisors.


While Mitzelfelt gingerly tries to redefine his image as a Postmus appointee, and Vogler gets momentum from own own mini political machine, Nelson may be the only candidate who stands unabashedly as his own candidate. He exudes a calm genuineness. He says what he believes in and expresses concern in preserving county resident's freedoms, especially the freedom to speak during public meetings.


It's a dying sentiment that may not win this election, but as the campaigning gets a bit frantic, and at times downright nasty, it sure is refreshing.