Challenger ousts longtime Merced County District Attorney

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Kimberly Helms Lewis will take the Merced County District Attorney seat after a landslide win on Tuesday. She secured more than 66 percent of the vote, surpassing the longtime incumbent, Larry Morse.

"The gap certainly was decisive, and we're grateful for that. It sends a clear message to the community and county as a whole that it's time for a new kind of leadership," Lewis said.

Morse was elected in office in 2006. He was scrutinized after his son, Ethan Morse was arrested in 2013 in connection with an Atwater shooting, but the charges were later dismissed.

In a statement, Morse said that it has been, "(An) honor to serve as the district attorney, and to working alongside incomparable employees."

He also said, "I congratulate Ms. Lewis on a decisive victory and pledge to do everything necessary to ensure a smooth transition."

Throughout the campaign, Lewis touted promises of bringing fairness and honesty to the DA's office, something she said is an issue with the current leadership.

"We're looking to bring a bigger sense of transparency to the DA office, and I think that's what the community's been asking for," Lewis said.

Mailed-in ballots are still coming in. County Assessor, Barbara Levey, said they had a bigger turnout for the primary election than they expected. She said they still have about 13,000 ballots to count, but that the challenger was in the lead from the start.

"When you look at that contest we delivered eight sets of results last night in eight increments. From the first one to the last, that contest has that same spread. I would not anticipate that trend changing," Levey said.

Lewis would start her new position in January.

Levey said they expect to have a final count of the ballots in about two weeks.
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