Ballots have been sent to voters in the Ceres City Council District 1 race as the all-mail ballot Election Day of Tuesday, Aug. 31 draws near.
Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters Donna Linder said that her office sent out 6,009 ballots beginning on Aug. 2 to all registered voters living in District 1. Those who return ballots will be deciding who will fill a pivotal council seat that has been vacant since January – a situation that has resulted in multiple deadlock tie votes among the four councilmembers.
The county Elections Office will accept ballots until the following Friday and will count them only if they are postmarked on or before Aug. 31. Completed ballots may also be deposited at a special ballot drop box at Cost Less Foods on Hatch Road or placed in the mail by Tuesday, Aug. 31.
The final count will not be available on election night, said Linder, because the office has until Friday to count late ballots which could still be in the mail. However, she said the county will post the most up-to-date vote count which may be a good snapshot of how the final results will go.
Running for the seat are James Casey, Laurie Smith and Connie Vasquez.
The winner will be seated at the Monday, Sept. 13 council meeting to complete the council for the first time since the seat was vacated by Channce Condit in January.
Casey has lived in Ceres since 1974 and has owned and operated Casey Moving Systems in Ceres since 1995. An Army veteran from 1968 to 1971, Casey said he will bring a new viewpoint and years of business experience to the council.
Smith, a Ceres resident since 1986, has a great deal of experience in local government and said she can hit the ground running hard because of her experience. She was appointed to the Ceres Planning Commission in January 2007 and as chairwoman has guided the city through decisions on land use and growth. Smith has also been the city of Modesto’s Director of Parks and Recreation Department since 2019. She’s been employed by the city of Modesto for 25 years.
Connie Vasquez had applied for the council to appoint her in February and told the council that she has been a Ceres resident for over 30 years and raised four children here. She started the Nana’s Lil Tykes Daycare business in 2007. While she acknowledges that she has no experience in government she cares about the community and always willing to help. She said she has been involved with the Turkey Trot, Love Ceres and has coached Ceres Youth Baseball.
Condit resigned midway through his four-year term after running and winning a seat on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. Having a council of even numbers has resulted in numerous 2-2 ties which have at times crippled the council from taking action. One of the biggest examples of deadlock was when the council met four times and was unable to reach a consensus in multiple motions to appoint someone to the empty seat. Council newcomers Couper Condit and Javier Lopez were vehemently opposed to appointing Smith while Linda Ryno and newcomer Bret Silveira held out for only Smith.
The council had no choice but to order the county to conduct a special election that will cost taxpayers anywhere from $5.50 to $7.50 per ballot. Linder said the cost will be in the $30,000 range.
Whoever is appointed will only serve out Channce Condit’s unexpired term until December 2022, but would give an obvious the advantage in seeking re-election to a four-year term.
The only time in recent Ceres history when a special election was held for a vacant Ceres council seat occurred in November 1976 when voters elected Jim Delhart over five other candidates to replace Steve Wright who resigned to pursue a career as a police officer. It is unclear if state law at the time allowed councils to fill a vacancy by appointment.