Ceres hasn’t had a contested mayor’s race since 2003. But in this year’s campaign – pitting a teacher and seasoned councilmember against a coach turned first-ever candidate – things have turned ugly.
Over the weekend five four-foot by eight-foot signs promoting the candidacy of Bret Durossette were vandalized with the spray-painting of the word “racist” on their faces, all in the same blue-colored paint. Durossette estimated that between 50 and 100 signs – including two large signs – have been stolen. All of Durossette’s signs posted in yards in the cul-de-sac street where he lives disappeared either Sunday night or early Monday. One Ring camera caught no image of a car so the candidate believes the thief or thieves were on foot.
Durossette suspects the vandalism and theft is being committed by students attending Ceres High School where he teaches and formerly coached; or Central Valley High School where Lopez has been a coach.
“It’s an absolute nightmare,” said Durossette. “It’s absolutely ridiculous. To call me a racist, my daughter, son and wife are so livid and I am too. With everything I’ve done for kids and the people my entire life, I’m the furthest from that.”
The culprits haven’t been caught, he said, but a photo he obtained showed one of the perpetrators as a young female in a Honda Accord.
“It’s these far-left Black Lives Matter girls,” commented Durossette. “I think it’s a race about race. I’m a white Republican.”
He also thinks he may also be targeted because of the rivalry between the two crosstown campuses. Lopez is a three-year assistant freshman coach at CVHS.
The Courier reached out to Lopez Monday evening for comment but he did not reply.
Councilman Durossette also notes how the City Council’s recent discussion about seizing the goods of peddlers – who happen to mostly be Latino – for failing to obtain a city peddler’s permit after repeated requests, may have inspired some young people in Ceres to exact political revenge on him.
The candidate’s wife, Angela Durossette, also a teacher at Ceres High School, said she and her husband have been targeted for months by students.
“These kids have been attacking him (and me) on Twitter and Instagram the past two months,” wrote Angela. “This is no longer just theft, but has now become LIBEL. 29 years coaching our youth and 27 years teaching, 13 years on the council, NEVER ONE TIME BEEN CALLED A RACIST, now because he is running for mayor of a town that he has given his life to serve, he is all of a sudden racist. SHAME ON THESE PEOPLE.”
Her posting, which included three photos of vandalized signs, generated outrage among Durossette supporters. One of the comments came from Steve Gordo, a CHS drama teacher who said: “… having worked with Bret for, at least 7 years, at Ceres High, I can attest that racism was never an issue for Bret. I had several non-white students that played sports under Bret’s coaching and if there was something wrong, all students knew they could express their concerns to me about most anything troubling them. Not once was any issue with coach/teacher Durosette ever raised, let alone racism.”
Gordo suggested that a lot of young people “see unending personal attacks on politicians, with some of the most ridiculous or vaguely generalized, like ‘racism’ launched against political leaders of all parties. Didn’t like the grade you earned from a teacher? Well, it’s easy, call him/her a racist, even if not true, it will plant a seed of doubt in people’s minds and cast a shadow over that teacher. Yep. We live in age of spurious accusations masquerading as ‘fact.’”