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Group intends to try & recall Mayor Cantu

Mayor Ben Cantu was served Wednesday with a letter of the intent of a group of Manteca residents to launch a recall to remove him from office.

The next step involves submitting a letter of intent to recall to the City Clerk that must meet legal requirements along with the names of 20 verified City of Manteca registered voters and their addresses who are advocating the recall. The notice served on Cantu would also have to be published as a legal notice in a newspaper.

The formal process then requires the circulation of petitions in order to qualify it for the ballot.

Election Code section 11221 states that 20 percent of qualified signatures are required to qualify a special election to conduct a recall vote. Based on the fact there were 38,434 registered voters in Manteca as of June 8, 2020, it would require signatures of 7,687 verifiable City of Manteca registered voters to trigger a recall.

The actual number is likely to be higher as it is based on the number of registered voters at the time the petition circulation process starts.

The backers of the recall are being driven primarily by Cantu’s support of establishing a homeless drop-in shelter/navigation center/transitional housing project along with affordable housing on an 8-acre site on South Main Street between Extra Space Storage and the Funsten Flooring distribution center. It is also proposed to have workforce attainable housing along South Main Street similar to the Juniper Apartments on Atherton Drive.

In all likelihood assuming they follow through and then secure the necessary signatures, the earliest a recall election would be able to take place is June 2, 2022 in conjunction with the state primary.

That is just five months before Cantu’s term ends.

Cantu, who has indicated he intends to seek a second term, will be up for re-election Nov. 8, 2022.

That means is Cantu is successfully recalled that whoever wins the vote to replace him will only serve six months. And, if they want to continue as mayor, they’d have to immediately start a second campaign for the Nov. 8 election.

A recall election would cost taxpayers $202,000 to conduct on June 7 based on figures provided to the City Council when they were mulling the possibility of a mayoral primary on that date.

A year ago this month on Oct. 19, 2020 another group tried to solicit support online to recall Cantu before undertaking the formal process.

It was started after broad details of disarray with municipal finance department accounting were made public. Some of the financial issues go back at least as far as 2015 — three years before Cantu was elected mayor by defeating Steve DeBrum. Cantu had been criticized in some quarters at the time for advocating the spending of more money on amenities as well as being part of the council that replaced former City Manager Tim Ogden with Miranda Lutzow who subsequently terminated Jodie Estarziau as police chief.

 The online effort only attracted 248 people prompting the backers of the move to drop their effort.

The last recall that qualified for the ballot in Manteca was in 1982. Three council members actually ended up being recalled. They were the late Bobby Davis who owned Manteca Trailer and Motorhome at the time, Rick Wentworth who went on to gain election and serve as the San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools and the late Trena Kelly who was both the first directly elected mayor and the first woman elected to the Manteca City Council.

The 1982 recall effort was launched days after the council dismissed Leonard Taylor as police chief. Ironically, the most persistent social media proponents of recalling Cantu last year were  those upset that then City Manager Miranda Lutzow — who was appointed by the council — placed Police Chief Jodie Estarziau on paid administrative leave. Estarziau eventually left municipal employment after receiving a financial settlement.

The cantankerous 1982 recall created deep divisions in Manteca that were still the basis for municipal political infighting until the mid-1990s.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email