Ben Cantu fielded congratulations calls throughout Wednesday regarding his election to the Manteca mayor’s post.
Cantu — who is leading incumbent Steve DeBrum by a 126 vote margin — has been politely telling his well-wishers that he hasn’t won yet given there are a number of provisional ballots that haven’t been counted.
“We have to wait until all of the voters are counted,” Cantu noted before a winner can be determined.
The reason for his guarded optimism is rooted in the 2016 City Council race when Cantu ran against Gary Singh, Debby Moorhead, Jeff Zellner, David Cushman, and Eric Hayes for two council seats.
Singh after the election night count was completed had a wide lead ahead of Moorhead who was in second and was clearly elected regardless of the outstanding votes that had yet to be counted. There were an estimated 10,000 provisional ballots countywide that still needed to be counted in 2016 with a number from Manteca.
After the election night count Zellner trailed Moorhead by 239 votes. Two days later when some of the provisional ballots were counted Zellner had cut Moorhead’s lead to 110 votes. A week and a half later when the final county was done Moorhead had beaten Zellner by 175 voters.
But next door in Lathrop a candidate who led after election night for one of two seats in the final count ended up not being elected to the council.
The county elections department expects to have a firm number on how many ballots are outstanding sometime today. The next count will be released on Friday.
While the final unofficial result may not be known for days or weeks, the 2018 race for mayor will go down as the tightest since 1994 when Bill Perry edged Carlon Perry by less than 60 votes.
Depending upon how many votes are left to be counted that are provisional — typically those mailed and postmarked as of Tuesday but not received before election day as well as absentee ballots dropped off at polling places — that are yet to be counted, there could be a change in the lead for mayor. That has happened in several South County council races in the last two election cycles as more and more people vote by mail or in advance. San Joaquin County elections officials expected 60 percent of the votes cast this year to be by absentee to set an all-time record.
The outstanding votes have to have their signatures verified before they can be counted.
Cantu is leading incumbent Steve DeBrum 6,514 to 6,388 votes after the initial count. That is a 50.49 percent to 49.51 percent margin.
Meanwhile retired fire captain David Breitenbucher secured one of the two open council seats with 5,720 votes (27.76%). Incumbent Mike Morowit held onto his seat with 5,499 votes (26.69%). Planning commission member Jose Nuno was in third with 5,158 votes (25.04 percent) while PG&E worker Chris Silva was in fourth with 4,225 votes (20.51%). The gap between second and third in the council race is considered to be too large for the provisional ballots to make a difference.
“We’re just waiting to see how the count goes,” DeBrum said Wednesday. “Whatever the outcome, I respect the will of the voters.”
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