Clovis News

Valley election contests shaping up

In Washington D.C., pundits are weighing the odds of a Republican congressional takeover. Gubernatorial hopefuls Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman already are sparring. In Fresno County, supervisors and City Council members in Fresno are gearing up for battle.

Lost in the election furor that has been building for months are dozens of November contests that are just getting started. The filing deadline for candidates in these races was Friday. The exception are those races where the incumbent isn't seeking re-election. That deadline is Wednesday.

Among these contests are Fresno Unified, where for the first time trustees will be elected by voters solely within their districts -- though only two of the four incumbents up for re-election are facing challengers. In the past, trustees had to live in their respective districts, but faced election from voters districtwide. It's a similar change for trustees seeking seats in the Central Unified School District and in the State Center Community College District.

In Huron, incumbent Mayor Ramon Dominguez is seeking re-election even as he faces felony grand theft charges for allegedly selling a chunk of land he didn't own to a church. He is being challenged by former council member Sylvia Valenzuela Chavez, whose job is listed as a transit driver.

And in Tulare, two City Council seats will be decided in an election that could affect a proposed motor racetrack on the southeast side of town.

"At the local level, the races have a direct impact on how our communities are run," Fresno County Clerk Victor Salazar said. "Those down-ticket offices are very important and have a major impact at the local level -- especially on the schools."

Unfortunately, Salazar said, there is a dropoff in votes near the bottom of ballots, especially long and crowded ballots like the one coming Nov. 2.

Across the central San Joaquin Valley, voters will decide on these small-scale yet important seats in irrigation, community service, conservation and public utility districts.

From Coalinga to Firebaugh to Orange Cove, city councils are being selected. From Parlier to Kerman to Sanger to Mendota, voters are electing school trustees. In a few, like the Clovis Unified School District, there are no challengers. The three incumbents are unopposed.

In Fresno Unified, retired school administrator Vurdell Newsome is challenging incumbent Cal Johnson in District 1, and Silvia Astorga Salcido is facing incumbent Valerie Davis in District 3. Salcido lost the seat to Davis in 2004, a few months after being appointed to fill the unexpired term of Richard Johanson, who resigned. Fresno Unified incumbents Tony Vang and Michelle Arax Asadoorian are unchallenged in their re-election bids.

In the South Valley, the Tulare City Council will get at least one new member in November because incumbent Rich Ortega, 77, did not seek re-election.

The outcome of the election could affect the fate of the proposed Tulare Motorsports Complex project, which has divided the City Council 3-2. Two seats are up for election and council members are voted on citywide, meaning the top two vote-getters will win.

Ortega voted with the council majority for the 700-acre development proposed by Fresno developer Bud Long. while incumbent David Macedo, a raceway opponent, voted in the minority and is seeking re-election.

Retired Tulare Police Chief Roger Hill, who supports the racetrack, is seeking election to the council. Also running are real estate broker Skip Barwick and substitute teacher Arthur A. Cabello Sr., who sits on the Tulare Redevelopment Agency. Attempts to contact Barwick and Cabello for their views on the racetrack issue were unsuccessful.

Because an incumbent did not seek re-election, the filing deadline for the council race has been extended to 5 p.m. Wednesday.