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City political season underway
• City Council districts #1 and #2 are up for grabs

Today marks the start of a campaign season in which prospective candidates for Ceres City Council district seats #1 and #2 may pick up nomination papers to begin a political run.

The candidate nomination period begins today and ends on Friday, Aug. 10. During this period, prospective candidates may take out, circulate and file nomination papers. If either incumbent for one of the offices does not file by August 10, the filing period will be extended until August 15. Prospective candidates are encouraged to schedule a meeting with City Clerk Diane Nayares-Perez to obtain nomination papers and other election-related materials. 

Candidates must be a registered voter residing anywhere within either of the two recently-formed 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 pick up nomination papers, which must be signed by no less than 20 and no more than 30 signatures of registered voters living within the city limits. Candidates are advised to get a few more than 20 signatures just in case the county learns that “nominators” are actually not registered voters. The city clerk handles the process nomination papers but the Stanislaus County Elections Division conducts the election.

This is the first year 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 1 and 2 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 will continue to be elected on an at-large basis. That seat is up for grabs in 2020. The office of vice-mayor is typically appointed among the councilmembers on a one- to two-year rotation.

District 1 is currently occupied by Ken Lane who has stated he will not seek re-election.

District 2 is occupied by Linda Ryno who has not announced her intentions.

Both are finishing up four-year terms.

In 2015 the Ceres City Council allowed Ceres voters to decide on district elections in fear of an expensive legal challenge to at-large elections which have typically been filed by minority advocate groups. City leaders were not especially receptive to the concept of council districts but agreed to the measure. Voters approved the measure by a margin of 1,079 votes (66.28 percent) to 549 votes (33.72 percent).

The change came about because representatives of the Latino Community Roundtable (LCR) in 2013 asked the city to move to district elections, citing how Modesto fought a similar change and spent $2 million in legal fees doing so. The LCR said it was not interested in suing Ceres to make the change but cited how a group named the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights forced the Ceres Unified School District to adopt district elections in 2009 after threats of being sued under the California Voting Rights Act. The non-profit advocacy group had filed a lawsuit on behalf of Latino voters, charging that the district’s at-large method of election was racially polarizing and violated the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).

District #1 consists mostly of the northwest section of Ceres west of Moffet Road. The district includes everything north of Evans Road, everything north of Caswell Avenue and a finger that reaches down to Whitmore Avenue to take in Mary Avenue.

District #2 mostly occupies newer areas west of Highway 99 with a small portion of the established area east of the freeway near Ceres High School, sandwiched between Evans Road to the north, Whitmore Avenue to the south with zip-zigs along Central Avenue and Sequoia Street to Fifth Street. The area was carved to include the residence of incumbent Linda Ryno when the first-ever map was carved out in 2015.

District 3 and 4 seats will be open in 2020.

District 3, now occupied by Bret Durossette, covers northeast Ceres, including areas east of Moffet Road as well as Eastgate.

District 4, now occupied by Vice Mayor Mike Kline, covers a block around Smyrna Park southward to Highway 99 and leaping across the freeway to take some areas of southwest Ceres, including Marazzi Lane, Sungate Drive and Daisy Tree.

In Hughson, voters will be deciding on three members of the City Council, including the mayor. The terms of Mayor Jeramy Young and Councilmembers George Carr and Harold Hill all expire this November. The council terms of Mark D. Fontana and Ramon Bawanan expire in November 2020.

Voters in the Hughson Unified School District will be electing three trustees to their School Board. The terms of Area 2 Trustee John Luis, Area 4 Trustee Randall Heckman and Area 5 Trustee Cindy Cunningham-Gipp expire this year.

There are no elections this year for the Ceres Unified School District board of trustees. The terms of District 1 Trustee Jim Kinard, District 4 Trustee Faye Lane and District 7 Trustee Teresa Guerrero all expire in November 2019. The terms of trustees Mike Welsh (District 2), Valli Wigt (District 3), Lourdes Perez (District 5) and Betty Davis (District 6) all expire in 2022.