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2020 a loaded year of political campaigns
2020 political art

The year 2020 will be a packed year for voters in Ceres. They’ll be asked to elect a mayor, a county supervisor, a District 10 congressman and a president – and undoubtedly decide on a number of statewide propositions.

The first election, the March primary, will have Supervisorial District 5 voters deciding on who will take over Jim DeMartini’s seat when he retires at the end of the year. Candidates for the seat are Ceres City Council members Channce Condit and Mike Kline and Ceres City Attorney Tom Hallinan. If no candidate claims at least 50 percent plus one vote on March 3 the top two candidates go to a runoff election in the Nov. 3 general election.

Mayor Chris Vierra has stated that he will not seek re-election, leaving the door wide open for potential candidacies from the council or other citizens at large during the Nov. 3 general election. Signaling interest in the job is Councilman Bret Durossette. Vice Mayor Linda Ryno has not ruled out a run.

Two Ceres City Council seats are also up for grabs in November. Kline’s District 4 seat and Durossette’s District 3 seat are expiring at the end of the year. Should Kline be knocked out of the supervisor’s race in March he would be able to seek council re-election. If Durossette runs for mayor, he would be unable to run for re-election to his council seat.

Kline represents Council District 4, which covers a block around Smyrna Park southward to Highway 99 and leaping across the freeway. The zigzagging district lines include some areas of southwest Ceres, including Marazzi Lane, Sungate Drive, Bavil Drive, Hardy Court, Bing Lane and Daisy Tree.

Durossette, who was appointed to the City Council in 2008 after the death of Rob Phipps, has been a Ceres High School teacher for 25 years and coaching for 29 years. His District 3 covers northeast Ceres, including areas east of Moffet Road as well as Eastgate.

The council candidacy filing period will open July 13 and end on August 7. If an incumbent does not file for re-election, the nomination period will be extended in that race until Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. Candidates must be a registered voter residing anywhere within either of the two council districts. Prospective candidates should consult a map of a diced-up city to determine what council district they live in before pondering a jump into city politics.

Candidates must fill nomination papers with the signatures of no less than 20 and no more than 30 signatures of registered voters living within the city. Candidates are advised to get a few more than 20 signatures in case the county learns that “nominators” are actually not registered voters. The city clerk handles nomination papers.

This is the second time in the history of Ceres that voters will be electing councilmembers on the basis of districts rather than the entire city limits. That means only persons living in Council Districts 3 and 4 may run for City Council on Nov. 6 this year; the remainder must wait for their district seat to come open for a run. Only the office of mayor continues to be elected on an at-large basis. The office of vice-mayor is typically appointed among the councilmembers on a one- to two-year rotation.

Board of Supervisors

DeMartini’s departure from the Board of Supervisors has prompted a concentrated assortment of candidates from Ceres and none from the west side communities of Newman or Patterson.

After former state Senator Anthony Cannella announced that he was abandoning plans to run for the District 5 seat, Hallinan, 58, was the first to jump in the race. Hallinan has served terms on the Yosemite Community College District board of trustees and was a candidate for the state Board of Equalization in 2018. In 2017 the Ceres resident was elected chairman of the California Law Revision Commission, a state agency responsible for studying problem areas in California law and recommending needed reforms to the governor and Legislature. Hallinan was appointed to the commission in 2015 by Gov. Jerry Brown. He received his Juris Doctorate degree from the Lincoln Law School in Sacramento and is now a partner with Churchwell White LLP. Hallinan, an Oakdale native, has served as city/special district attorney for a dozen of local governmental agencies over the past 22 years.

Hallinan has been endorsed by former Ceres Mayor and state Assemblyman Sal Cannella, Sheriff Jeff Dirkse, and Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra and the mayors of Patterson and Newman.

Hallinan said if elected he will resign from the law firm of Chuchwell White which provides legal services to the cities of Ceres, Patterson and Newman.

Hallinan said he is very familiar with issues facing Ceres and the county. He said his goals include reducing homelessness, protecting water rights, bringing the county and its nine cities together as well as fighting the state in its onerous demands on local governments.

Kline was the second in the race. Kline has served on the council for eight years and previously served on the Ceres Planning Commission.

Kline said it’s a good time for him to run since his second council term ends next year.

“I’m enjoying my time on the City Council learning things,” said Kline, who is a warehouse manager for Cost Less Foods. “I think the opportunity is right for me to move to another level. My term is up in November 2020.”

Kline, 61, wants to see accountability for the amount of money being spent by the county on homelessness. He also wants to improve ways to retain sheriff’s deputies “without breaking the bank.”

Late in the race was Condit, who was sworn in as a freshman councilman last year and, if elected, would be leaving office midway through a four-year term. In a prepared press release, Condit said he expected Cannella to run and had “no intention of running for the Board of Supervisors, but when he decided not to run, I felt that we needed a strong voice for District 5 and I believe I can provide it.”

Condit said he has been an advocate for direct earmarks for public safety and led the effort to establish a beautification committee for the City of Ceres. 

“I will always represent the people of District 5, not the county bureaucracy or special interest groups,” said Condit in a prepared statement. “Local government is meant to be closest to the people. I will hold weekly constituent office hours for the residents and make constituent service the cornerstone of my public service.”

Condit’s endorsements include former mayors Jim Delhart, Louie Arrollo, Eric Ingwerson and Barbara Hinton; as well as former Supervisor Paul Caruso, Assemblyman Heath Flora and Turlock Mayor Amy Bublak.

District 2 Supervisor Vito Chiesa of Hughson, who represents Hughson, Keyes, Turlock and La Grange, is unopposed for re-election.

Congressional race

Congressman Josh Harder, D-Turlock, will be defending his seat in the 10th Congressional District against two other Democrats and three Republicans.

Harder, who defeated Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in November 2018, will fight to keep his seat for a second term, though there are some who would like to take it. The Democrat will face two from his own party, robotics engineer Ryan Blevins of Oakdale and U.S. Navy veteran Michael Barkley from Manteca, as well as three Republican challengers: Veterinarian and former Turlock City Councilman Ted Howze, San Joaquin County Supervisor Bob Elliot and California Strawberry Commission Regulatory Affairs Manager Marla Livengood. 

Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, who represents Ceres in the state Assembly District 21, is running unopposed.

Hughson voters to decide

District 12 Assemblyman Heath Flora is seeking a third term and is running against Lathrop City Councilman, Alameda County support technician and Evangelical pastor Paul Akinjo. His district covers a slim portion of Eastgate in Ceres and the entire community of Hughson.

While Flora was a political newcomer when he was first elected in 2016, the Ripon resident now has some experience under his belt. Still, there’s always something to learn at the Capitol.

“I think we’re always learning,” said Flora. “You can become more comfortable in your role as far as the processes and procedures in the building, but some of that stuff takes time and when people become stagnant is when they get themselves in trouble. When we started, we knew with my work ethic and the staff’s work ethic that if we could do our job and represent the district the way it deserves, we’d be there as long as voters want us to be.”

Akinjo migrated to the U.S. from Nigeria in the early 1980's and has since relocated from Oakland to Lathrop, where he’s lived since 2001. The Democrat was inspired to run thanks to his heart for advocacy, he said, which has seen him travel to the Capitol to speak for causes like homelessness, housing, natural disasters, water and transportation.

“These are issues that affect our region, District 12 and beyond,” Akinjo said. “I am on the boards for these situations. I want them to be addressed and action taken, not words. That is why I’m running for the State Assembly to represent our district and remove the impediments to job growth, quality of life and sustainability.”

Since his election, Flora considers some of his greatest accomplishments to be securing $12 million for Stanislaus County Fire radio improvements as well as $1 million for the local Boys and Girls Club. He also believes building relationships with Democrats in Sacramento is something vital to the job, and an effort he’s taken seriously since taking office.

“You can go to Sacramento and be a flamethrower and drop bombs all day but that will get nothing done,” he said.

If reelected, Flora would like to tackle ongoing issues in the state like the Central Valley’s water supply, as well as strengthening that Valley’s voice in the Capitol. Air quality will also be an upcoming issue, he said.

Akinjo said if elected he would focus on transportation funding, as he commutes to the Bay Area for work and is upset with current transit, mental healthcare and housing. He’s currently in his seventh year as a Lathrop City Councilmember, where the town has gone from no reserves to $10 million in savings and has experienced immense growth recently in terms of housing and business.

“It takes planning, vision, collaboration and sound ideology to achieve what we have accomplished in our city,” he said. “I will take the same attitude to Sacramento.”

Judge races

Voters will also have the chance to decide new Stanislaus County Superior Court Judges in March, as three are set to retire. There will be a three-way race for Superior Court Office No. 5 between Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne, retired prosecutor Jared Carillo and Superior Court Commissioner Kenneth Hara, and another between Chief Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees, attorney Daniel Johnson and former Deputy District Attorney Samual Getrich for Office No. 6.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeff Mangar and Modesto law firm managing partner Colleen Van Egmond are both vying for Superior Court Office No. 2.

The son of immigrant parents, Mangar has been with the DA’s office for over 21 years and has handled approximately 10,000 cases during his career, including thousands of felonies. He’s also a Certified Legal Specialist in Criminal Law, a licensed real estate broker and serves on countless Boards throughout the county.

Mangar lived in Turlock prior to moving to Modesto, though his wife Lina still works in the city. His extended family also live and work in Turlock, he said.

“I have been a prosecutor for my entire legal career and I felt a sense of fulfillment pursuing a career in public service and public safety…My obligation representing the community as a whole requires an absolute dedication to fairness and facts. Those are the qualities we need in our judges,” Mangar said. “Based on my experience, I know that I can make a difference to ensure that justice and fairness is equally applies to everyone.”

Though Van Egmond’s address is considered a Modesto residence, she’s close enough to Turlock that she’s constantly in the city and her children attend Turlock schools. She primarily handles civil litigation in her line of work — experience she believes is needed on the bench.

“It’s important that some of us from the civil realm step up. We need to have diverse backgrounds on the court,” she said. “Primarily, there are people going onto the bench who have only experience in the criminal world.”

Mangar believes that his experience prosecuting in the courtroom every day will help him make split-second decisions thanks to his mastery over the rules of evidence and court. He also has the proper background to make decisions when signing warrants, he added, ensuring justice gets done and a person’s liberty is never jeopardized.

“The deciding factor in this election is experience,” he said.

Van Egmond believes it’s her own experience that makes her the better candidate, whether it be the wide range of cases she’s handled, sitting as a Pro Tem judge in traffic court or serving as an arbitrator for the California State Bar.

“My wide, diverse background and experience is what will allow me to be as fair and equitable as possible because I’ve seen both sides of cases,” Van Egmond said. “They could place me in so many different areas on the bench and I’ll already have the experience that will help me to be fair and equitable”

In addition to these races, voters both Republican and Democrat will also decide their party’s local delegates.

California’s primary election will take place on March 3, 2020. Voters must register by Feb. 18, and Vote-by-Mail ballot requests must arrive by Feb. 25. Personally-delivered ballots must be delivered by the close of polls at 8 p.m. March 3, and mailed ballots must be postmarked on or before March 3 and received no later than March 6.

Presidential race

Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill in 2017 that moved California’s 2020 primary election from June to March — a move meant to increase the influence of the country’s most populous state in deciding presidential candidates. By the time California voters made their decisions at the ballot box in June 2016, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were already the presumptive nominees for their respective parties.

California voters will be deciding among a number of presidential candidates. Generally recognized Democratic presidential candidates are Michael Bennet, Joseph R. Biden, Michael R. Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Mosie Boyd, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente III, John K. Delaney, Michael A. Ellinger, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Joe Sestak, Mark Stewart Greenstein, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.

Besides President Trump, Republicans running for president are Robert Ardini, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, Zoltan G. Istvan, Matthew John Matern, Joe Walsh and Bill Weld.

American Independents Don Blankenship, Phil Collins, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, Charles Kraut and J.R. Myers are also running. Green Party candidates are Howie Hawkins, Dario Hunter, Dennis Lambert, Sedinam Moyowasifza-Curry and David Rolde.

Libertarian presidential candidates are Max Abramson, Ken Armstrong, Dan Behrman, Keenan Wallace Dunham, Souraya Faas, Erik Chase Gerhardt, Jacob Hornberger, Jo Jorgensen, Adam Kokesh, Steven A. Richey, Sam Robb, Kim Ruff and Vermin Supreme.

Also running are Peace and Freedom candidates Howie Hawkins and Gloria La Riva.

Voter deadlines

For those who are not already registered to vote but want to, the last day to register for the March 7 ballot is on Feb. 18.

Voting by mail runs Feb. 3-25. Requests for a mail ballot must arrive at the county Elections Division office by Feb. 25. Voters may turn in complete ballots – including vote by mail ballots – in-person to polling locations before the polls close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3. For those mailing in ballots, envelopes containing the completed ballot must be postmarked on or before March 3 and received by the county no later than March 6.