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Ceres voters nearly made a Lane change
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Election results from Nov. 5, 2013

Linda Ryno.....1,519 votes

Ken Lane......1,297 votes

Hugo Molina....1,212 votes


Last week's election results should make Ken Lane a bit nervous.

Ceres voters, of course, elected two councilmembers. Lane, who is currently vice mayor, should have decisively smoked his two opponents as the favored incumbent. Voters, however, nearly made a "Lane change." He only held onto his Ceres City Council seat by an 80-vote margin.

The surprise of election night, depending on how you look at things, is either how well Linda Ryno did; or how weakened Lane has become. You can bet the results will be used for the playbook in the next mayoral race.

Ryno - not incumbent Lane - turned out to be the biggest reaper of votes. She pulled 35.5 percent of the vote (1,519). Lane's vote total lagged behind that of Ryno by 222 votes. Lane received 1,297 votes and Molina received 1,217. Had a mere 41 voters flipped from Lane to Hugo Molina, Lane would have on the outside looking in.

The fact that Lane did not gallop horse lengths in front of Ryno raises all kinds of conjecture and analysis. After all, Lane sent out a slick campaign mailer thanks to a $12,724 campaign war chest and he should have taken a commanding vote lead. There is speculation he held back in spending for a planned run for mayor in 2015.

By contrast, Ryno won more votes but spent far less - she collected $4,199 in campaign funds - and she didn't send slick mailers. Ryno did, I understand, walk more than the other two. Ryno also took out large ads in the Courier (Lane took out none this time) and she posted signs that insisted she was a "citizen not a politician."

Molina, who lost in his second bid for City Council, came within striking distance of Lane. He only collected only $915 in campaign donations and loaned himself $1,000. Molina did not exert as much effort as he could have and probably needs to articulate a clearer vision for Ceres if he seeks a third attempt.

There are no real apples to apples comparisons of past races to draw any conclusions about last week's performance since Lane, Ryno and Molina never ran together in the same race. But what we know is this:

• In 2011, Eric Ingwerson dominated with 1,225 votes, defeating Ryno's 1,078 votes and Molina's 879 votes.

• The last time that Lane ran for council was in a three-candidate 2009 race. Chris Vierra was on top with 1,852 votes, Lane followed with 1,482 and Kline lost with 1,192.

As a purely mathematical exercise, Ryno pulls 441 more voters than she did two years ago, Molina gains 338 votes, and Lane drops 185 votes than he claimed four years ago. Was this an anomoly? Was the difference in the precinct candidates' walking habits? Maybe it goes deeper.

Lane is obviously vulnerable as he looks to a possible run for mayor in 2015. Mayor Chris Vierra has indicated he will likely not seek re-election. Councilman Bret Durossette is also toying with the idea of being the next mayor and there are rumblings that former councilmember Lisa Mantarro Moore may wish to run for that seat. That gives Lane a lot of serious competition.

Ryno said voters told her during precinct walking that they want "change and given that the council was endorsing Molina, I think they may have seen me as that opportunity for change." What kind of change could they want? No doubt they want new businesses and they're tired of talk about downtown being revitalized but it never happening. Otherwise things seem to be stable in city government, so why the feel there needs to be change?

That may be the explanation. Maybe it's not. Again, maybe it has more to do with Ryno walking more than Lane. And then again, maybe it's about Lane fatigue. Lane has his staunch supporters - he has lived in Ceres his entire life - but he also has detractors.

Lane was not helped when in September it appeared he was using his office to go to bat for his own employer. Lane stood up to a city staff member who recommended that the council award a copy machine contract to another firm besides Mo-Cal Office Solutions for which Lane is employed. More than one audience member thought it "smelled funny" after Lane told the staff member "I know you're not an expert but I know that I am and what's best for the city" and then voted against a contract to a competitor. It just didn't look right and Lane should have known better.

Lane could be another episode away from additional bad press that would be used against him in the court of public opinion. He must tread very carefully.

Meanwhile the children of Chad and Helen Condit are attending public events and working rooms as heirs apparent to the family political dynasty. It's apparent that they are being groomed for political waters. After all, grandpa Gary A. Condit became a Ceres city councilman in 1972 at age 23. Earlier this year bus stop bench advertising popped up in front of the Ceres Post Office suggesting that Gary M. Condit, now in junior high, will be a candidate for mayor in 2019. That's if his older brothers don't beat him to it. The handsome and charismatic new bumper crop of Condits are already well connected politically. Their mother works for state Senator Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres. Couper Condit, 17, had a chance to work on father Chad's failed congressional campaign. Channce Condit, 23, is working for state Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, who happens to be his uncle (Gray married Cadee Condit, sister of Chad Condit).

Things are looking as though they are shaping up to become very interesting in Ceres city politics.

Very interesting.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at