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Casey leads in council race
Smith behind in second place
James Casey
James Casey

Ceres businessman James “Jim” Casey holds onto a healthy lead in the results for the special election to fill the Ceres City Council District 1 seat.

The election was held Tuesday, Aug. 31 but results are not final. Legislation passed in the form of Senate Bill 152, which took effect on June 28, extends the dates mail ballots are timely received from 8 p.m. on Election Day for seven additional days. All ballots postmarked no later than Aug. 31 will be processed as they arrive in the mail through September 7. 

The vote count will not be complete for some time but as of Friday’s vote count, Casey is far in front of second-place finisher Laurie Smith. The latest vote count has Casey at 546 votes, or 41.49 percent; Smith at 398, or 30.24 percent; and Connie Vasquez at 372 votes, or 28.27 percent.

As of the latest count, voter turnout was 22.03 percent with 1,322 returning ballots out of 6,002 sent out.

The election decides 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 winner will be seated at a special meeting preliminarily set for Wednesday, Sept. 22 to complete the council for the first time since the seat was vacated by Channce Condit in January.

The weight of winning a seat on the council settled in last week when Casey felt the responsibilities that lay before him.

“Now I have to do the right thing for the city and try and do the best I can to satisfy the people that supported me,” said Casey. “There’s going to be times I won’t be able to satisfy them 100 percent but it’s really an obligation that I have now. When I was running it was pretty easy to think oh I can do that, I can do that. But now that I have it I really need to concentrate and do it right.”

Casey said he and his family canvassed neighborhoods.

“I had the opportunity to meet some new neighbors,” said Casey. “It was refreshing. The number one concern … was code enforcement and a couple of people about stop signs (being run). The general public seems to be pretty satisfied with what’s going on.”

He later added: “It was important, I think, to get out and walk the neighborhood and meet people. I live a pretty sheltered life.”

“I look forward to continue making Ceres a good place to live. It’s a good place now; we just got to keep it a good place.”

He also said volunteers came into his place of business to make phone calls to votes to promote his candidacy.

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, will still serve on the Planning Commission if her loss holds. She conceded the race before the final vote, posting on Facebook: “Thank you all so very much for your support in the special election for District 1. I truly enjoyed meeting so many new people and hearing about your hopes for Ceres’ future. Congratulations to Jim Casey, I wish you the best and look forward to working with you to move Ceres forward.”

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.

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. 

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.

If ultimately seated, Casey will only serve out Condit’s unexpired term until December 2022.