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Majority of Lathrop City Council seats up for grabs

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POSTED June 4, 2012 12:31 a.m.

LATHROP – There could end up being a drastic transformation in the makeup of the Lathrop City Council after November’s election.

With three seats up for grabs when voters go to the polls later this year – Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos will have to battle for a second term if he wants to keep control of the gavel while councilpeople Martha Salcedo and Christopher Mateo will also see their terms expire – the majority of Lathrop’s governing body could end up having new faces after voters are finished having their say.

And when you factor in that councilman Sonny Dhaliwal is planning on making a run at the mayor’s post and will have to vacate his position on the council if he wins, the idea of how best to fill the seat will once again be a factor when the newly elected leaders are finally seated.

Two years ago Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely was handily elected to serve on the council and withdrew his name from consideration citing a potential conflict of interest. He learned later that none existed. The seated members opted to take the candidate with the next most votes which paved the way for then 19-year-old Omar Ornelas to claim his seat.

Mateo is making a run for California’s newly formed 12th Assembly District on Tuesday as one of only two candidates on the ballot he will more than likely not be seeking another term on the council. Instead he is expected to focus his efforts on beating current Assemblywoman and Modesto product Kristen Olsen.

But any newcomers hoping to make a splash in the race for the vacant seats will have to wait until for at least six weeks before they can formally begin the process of running.

According to Lathrop City Clerk Mitzi Ortiz, the filing period for prospective candidates doesn’t open until July 16. It doesn’t’ cost candidates anything to take papers out, and they’ll need at least 20 signatures from voters registered in San Joaquin County in order to qualify for the ballot. A candidate’s statement that will go out on sample ballots to all voters will likely run in the neighborhood of $800, she said. All necessary paperwork and signatures will need to be submitted by Aug. 10 in order to qualify.

Voters will set the line-up for the November ballot Tuesday when they head to the polls for California’s first ever open primary.

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