Local Election

Fresno candidate declares victory in special election, says he’ll ‘focus on results’

Here are the candidates for Fresno City Council, District 2

Five candidates are competing to fill northwest Fresno's City Council seat left vacant by Steve Brandau. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote plus one, the election will go to a runoff in November 2019.
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Five candidates are competing to fill northwest Fresno's City Council seat left vacant by Steve Brandau. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote plus one, the election will go to a runoff in November 2019.

Fresno’s next city councilmember appears to have grabbed hold of the open seat and swept his challengers in Tuesday’s special election.

Mike Karbassi, a 35-year-old small business owner, had nearly 59% of the vote, according to the latest results from all precincts reporting.

Karbassi also far outpaced his four active opponents in campaign contributions, pulling in $162,938 through the latest required filing period. He pulled down endorsements from the heads of local law enforcement and former mayors.

His results remained near the 60% mark for the entire night and he declared victory about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday.

“I’m very humbled. I’m very grateful to the people who supported me,” he said on Tuesday. “I’m so grateful to the voters of northwest Fresno.”

The seat was left vacant earlier this year by Steve Brandau, who was elected to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

Priorities

Karbassi has said addressing property crime and neighborhood infrastructure, as well as making the city business-friendly, were his top three priorities. He said Tuesday he had a list of needs in the district, pointing to potholes and street lights.

Karbassi said he hopes to be “a bridge” on the council’s dais.

“I do see a lot of division and I would really like to be a bridge between the council and the mayor,” he said. “I’d like to be that bridge and focus on results. I don’t have time for politics. I don’t have time for silly grievances.”

In a statement issued Wednesday morning, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand said he was “pleased” Karbassi was joining the City Council: “Mike is coming to City Hall at an important time in our city’s history and I look forward to working with him on my vision for Fresno, which includes improving public safety, creating jobs, and improving the quality of life of all of our citizens.”

Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth said Wednesday about 1,300 vote-by-mail and provisional ballots are yet to be counted. It’s unclear how many were sent by mail postmarked before the deadline.

Orth said her office will update the vote tally at 3 p.m. Friday and plans to certify the election on Aug. 21.

Others

The second-highest vote-getter was Lawrence Garcia, a private security contractor. Election results showed he had more than 16% of the votes. He garnered $76,513 in campaign contributions, according to public records.

Attempts to reach Garcia on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

A candidate can win the seat outright by getting 50% of the vote plus one more ballot, which Karbassi appears to have wrapped up. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters face off in an election runoff in November.

Two candidates, 42-year-old business attorney Jared Gordon and 26-year-old special needs therapist Oscar Sandoval, each hovered around 10% of the votes.

Gordon conceded Tuesday night.

“Mike was a tireless campaigner and I hope he’ll be equally tireless in representing the people of northwest Fresno,” Gordon said. “I wish him the best of luck.”

George Herman, a 64-year-old attorney, tallied less than 3%, according to the results.

Phil Arballo’s name appeared on the ballot but the small business owner has already announced a campaign to unseat Rep. Devin Nunes from California’s 22nd Congressional District. Still, Arballo received a little more than 1% of the vote.

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Reporter Thaddeus Miller has covered cities in the central San Joaquin Valley since 2010, writing about everything from breaking news to government and police accountability. A native of Fresno, he joined the Fresno Bee in 2019 after time in Merced and Los Banos.
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