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Larson calls city ‘tyrannical’ in ruling on ballot designation
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Dave Breitenbucher — who is running unopposed for a second term on the Manteca City Council — preferred to be listed on the Nov. 8 ballot as “retired fire captain”.

His second choice was “retired firefighter”.

What he got was his third choice — “Manteca City Councilmember”.

The Manteca City Clerk’s office under California law posted on the Secretary of State’s website regarding ballot designations, was required to reject Breitenbucher’s top  two preferences of the three every candidate is allowed to submit.

The ballot designation is considered crucial by candidates seeking to win voters over as the wording of their occupation or volunteer activities is a quick read as to what they are associated with.

At the same time the state, after years of complaints over misleading wording, has developed a hard-fast set of rules governing what can and can’t be allowed to be listed in no more than three words with the candidate’s name.

It is usually  fairly routine matter.

Not so this election year in Manteca.

One candidate — Nancy Watson — will appear on the ballot with no designation after her name although she wanted it to be listed as “retired city clerk”. She is running against Mike Morowit for the District 4 seat representing virtually all of Manteca north of Louise Avenue who is listed as a “Manteca small businessman.”

 Mayoral hopeful Lei Ann Larson, like Breitenbucher, didn’t get her top choice under rules City Clerk Cassandra Candini-Tilton is obligated to enforce under the oath she took to uphold California law.

As such, Larson described the decision as “the city tyrannical tactics forcing me to choose ‘parent’ as a ballot designation (as being a) way to diminish my professional accomplishments and to mislead voters into believing I have no experience and qualifications to serve as . . . mayor.”

She wanted to be listed as a “community volunteer” as the top choice in her official submissions of three options although she would have preferred to highlight her background in the legal profession. That, however, is not allowed due to the length of time between her working in the profession and running for office.

Larson  is not pleased with the city clerk’s office nixing the “community volunteer “designation.

In a flurry of emails and official responses, it shows how Larson ended up as a “parent” on the ballot as opposed to a “community volunteer”.

When asked, as required by state law, to provide the name of the community groups she was involved with Larson offered simply “churches”. Pressed further, she said specifically indicated Catholic churches.

When the city tried to verify whether that met Section 20714.5(b) requirements for community volunteers, Larson indicated she worked with a lot of churches in various manners but offered no documentation.

That is why the city clerk’s office under Section 20714.5(b) —  “the activity or service must constitute substantial involvement of the candidate's time and effort such that the activity or service is the sole, primary, main or leading professional, vocational or occupational endeavor of the candidate within the meaning of subdivisions (a) and (b) of section 20714 of this Chapter” — rejected the ballot designation “community volunteer”.

In Watson’s case, her first and only choice was “retired city clerk”. It also appears as the only option on her resubmission after the city clerk’s office rejected her first submission and listed the reasons for doing so.

In Watson’s case, documentation was provided from Lathrop City Manager Steve Salvatore that she was city clerk in that city from Sept. 30, 2000 through March 3, 2004.

That had to be rejected under state law because the aggregate time she served as city clerk was less than five years, the minimum the state election’s code requires one to be involved in a professional before it can be used with the word “retired” as a ballot designation.

There was also an issue of her working as a management analyst with the City of Hughson after she left employment with the City of Lathrop. As such, another section of the state law requires the most recent occupation must be used.

That is referenced in Section 20714 (1d) that reads, “If the candidate is engaged in a profession, vocation or occupation at the time he or she files his or her nomination documents, the candidate's proposed ballot designation is entitled to consist of the candidate's current principal professions, vocations and occupations. In the event the candidate does not have a current principal profession, vocation or occupation at the time he or she files his or her nomination documents, the candidate may use a ballot designation consisting of his or her principal professions, vocations or occupations, which the candidate was principally engaged in during the calendar year immediately preceding the filing of the candidate's nomination papers.”

The law was clear as well in Breitenbucher case. As an elected official currently in office at the time  of the election, Breitenbucher had to use wording that reflects he is an incumbent on the Manteca City Council.

That is covered in Chapter 7, 20712(a) of Elections Code Section 1307. The wording clearing states “shall” in terms of having to use their elected office they are currently holding as their designation on the ballot.

Ben Cantu is being listed on the ballot as “Mayor/Manteca Businessman” while Gary Singh’s ballot designation is “Manteca Businessman/Councilmember.” Both are running against Larson for mayor.

As a side note, Morowit could not have used the fact that he is a former council member — even if he wanted to —  on his ballot designation under elections code rules.

As to concerns Larson expressed about the city listing ballot designations with the candidates’ names on the city’s official website, the city has been doing so since 2016 when Lisa Blackmon was city clerk.

It was done to reflect the procedures that the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters uses when listing candidates on its official website.

Tilton stressed it was done so as part of the city’s ongoing effort to increase transparency

Neither Watson or Breitenbucher have criticized the city clerk’s office for following state law.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email