June 4, 2014

Fresno City Council District 1 race heads to Nov. fight

The Fresno City Council District 1 race is headed to a November runoff.

Cary Catalano led the seven-person District 1 race with 35.3% with all 28 precincts reporting, followed by Esmeralda Soria at 32.9%. Rama Dawar was a distant third at 10.0% and Rebeca Rangel, Mark Castro, Jackson Shepherd and Lawrence Cano trailed in single digits.

Catalano and Soria will advance to the November general election.

District 3's Oliver Baines and District 7's Clint Olivier were well in front after the county elections office finished its first tabulation early Wednesday morning, and District 5's Sal Quintero is a guaranteed winner since he was unopposed. If the incumbents get 50% plus one vote, they get another four years at City Hall.

Catalano and Soria each are supported by powerful interests that often fight each other.

Catalano, a businessman, is supported by Mayor Ashley Swearengin. Soria is a lawyer who counts Assembly Member Henry T. Perea and Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea in her camp.

Catalano said his early lead was a sign of the hard work by his campaign.

"It really is about letting folks know that I care deeply about our future and what their needs are in their neighborhoods," Catalano said at his election night party. "Local government is here to work for them. That's what I want to do."

Soria's party was right around the corner from Catalano's in the Tower District. She said she's confident, should there be a runoff, that she'll pick up most of the votes from the other five candidates.

"This is where we expected to be," Soria said. "Our team worked very hard to reach our base. I'm very confident in the runoff we'll get those (other candidates' supporters). I believe my opponent has reached his ceiling."

District 1 includes the Tower District, the Fresno High School area and several neighborhoods west of Highway 99. Incumbent Blong Xiong is termed out in January.

The seat is important because it could be the swing vote on a council that has had its share of 4-3 votes recently.

District 7

Olivier had 54.8% in a field of four candidates. Mike Wells was second with 28.6%.

The District 7 race had its share of bad blood between Olivier and Wells. Swearengin's unsuccessful effort last year to privatize the city's residential trash service -- Olivier was for it, Wells fought it -- was only the most visible policy disagreement.

Wells is hoping he, Art Gonzales and Mauro Saldate can total more than half the votes, forcing a two-person race.

Olivier was confident.

"My neighbors are very kind," Olivier said. "They have my cell number. They recognize they can call me if they need anything. I think that's what this (lead) is all about."

Wells, a longtime community advocate, noted that early results in last year's Measure G special election favored privatization, then changed dramatically with late results.

"If this election goes like Measure G, then we're in good shape," Wells said.

District 7 covers much of central Fresno. It is the only council district that doesn't touch the city's edges.

District 3

Baines had 65.3% of the vote in a three-person race, but said Tuesday night that he's not taking anything for granted. "I'm cautiously optimistic. But I'll have a little bit of anxiety until it's truly over."

Barbara Ann Hunt, a community activist, was second with 21.2% of the vote. Eddie Rashad, a businessman, had 12.3%.

The candidates are running for seats at a City Hall that is slowly recovering from five years of the Great Recession. City officials have filed away any chatter about bankruptcy. Swearengin in her proposed fiscal year 2014-2015 budget found enough money to spend a little extra on public safety and street repair.

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