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Campaigning requires very, very thick skin
tilton sign.jpg
A homemade campaign sign placed along West Yosemite Avenue at McKinley Avenue in Lathrop. - photo by JEFF TILTON

Over the next few days, registered voters in San Joaquin County who opted to vote by mail, will receive ballots in the mailbox. It is the beginning of the culmination of a long election season, one, for some, officially started in January with the June primary.

Being force fed slates after slates, especially with the Denham/Harder contest, is tiring.

Then there are the mailed “sample ballots” — a complete waste of natural resources and candidates’ money. (Irony: Where are the tree-huggers on that issue?)

And recently I saw a few hand-made “campaign” or personal opinion signs erected along West Yosemite. Those “signs” remind me of Lucky Lager bottle caps…huh?

The San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters has to manage a November 2018 general election that lists 101 races. Sadly, of those 101 elections for offices, only 46 have contests. The rest are “No Election” since the number of candidates matched the number of seats available in that category.

For example, Manteca’s Catherine Mathis will likely retain her seat on the San Joaquin Community College Board of Trustees since no other candidate is listed on the ballot for SJDC Area 7.

Hopefully she votes!

The same will apply to current Manteca Unified School District Board of Trustees Kathy Howe (Area 2) and Stephen Schluer (Area 6).

All three available seats on the Ripon Unified School District Board of Trustees are without opposition. Incumbents Kit Oase and Chad Huskey will remain on the Board while newcomer Annette Vande Pol will win because she has no opposition.

Staying in Ripon, City Council members Dean Uecker and Mike Restuccia will remain in office since there were no other candidates for the two available seats.

In Lathrop, no one stepped forward to challenge incumbent mayor Sonny Dhaliwal.

Going further down the ballot, there will be default victories for the offices on the Lathrop-Manteca Rural Fire Protection District Board of Directors (two seats), Ripon Consolidated Fire District Board of Directors (two seats), and the South San Joaquin Irrigation District Board of Directors (two seats).


Knowing first-hand after an 18-month campaign journey through a primary and general election season four years ago, it takes a huge amount of courage to step forward to run for office.

It requires speaking with and to lots of people.

It requires money. Lots of money.

It requires grit.

And it requires very, very thick skin.

There is also potential fallout when deciding to run for office. A candidate’s life is under the microscope.

Former San Joaquin County Office of Education Board Member Jill Fritchen once told me during my campaign journey, “make sure your animals have pet licenses!”

Today, with the many avenues of social media available, messages about a candidate can be like the “phone game” we used to play in school. By the time it reaches a certain number of people, the message has morphed into something not even close to the actual message.

I had lifelong friends, who I thought were my lifelong friends, surprise me with behaviors and actions.

Your family will get emotionally involved and likely personalize every attack from the opposition.

There will be times when your expensive campaign signs will be damaged or removed or an opponent’s sign will suddenly block your sign.

It can quickly get personal…if you allow that to happen.

There are also mean-spirited people who thrive on creating illusions to fool voters. For example, last week a teacher group in Stanislaus County used a comparison sheet on Facebook to show the differences between two candidates. It was clear the group backed the male candidate who was pictured with a pleasant smile on his face, while the female opponent’s picture depicted her biting into a large Portuguese scone. (I actually hope that move backfires.)

Unless you are running for an office beyond the local level, there is either little or no compensation.

Information provided to me by Manteca Unified School District’s Chelo De Leon, MUSD board members earn $422 per month and the district provides a health insurance benefit cap of $690.89 per month. Board members are not provided benefits after they leave office.

The City of Manteca’s Anthony Suber, Assistant City Clerk, shared with me that the mayor and council members start with a $500 monthly stipend and there are salary adjustment increases per City ordinance. Elected officials also have the option to enroll into the state’s public employees retirement system (PERS) where the City will contribute into that system, otherwise the elected official can access a 7.5 percent contribution into a deferred compensation program. There are no paid benefits once council members, including mayors, retire/leave office.

Lumping all of the aforementioned together one can see why choosing to serve is more than placing your name on the ballot.

Retired United States Congressman Richard Pombo (R-Tracy) once told me that “no one understands what it is like to run for office until they have done it.”

He was spot on. That is why I immediately extend respect to all candidates who run for office. I get it.

Good luck to all candidates, regardless if they are running unopposed.

Now, if we can only get more than the typical 25 percent of the registered voters to, uh, vote!