No, Dave Breitenbucher has never shared cocktails with Lei Ann Larson.
And, yes, the Manteca mayoral campaign has taken another bizarre twist.
A screenshot of an email thread from May 17 to May 28 between Councilman Breitenbucher and mayoral candidate Larson now making the rounds includes the line from Larson to Breitenbucher: “Are you back in town this week? We were hoping to connect and catch up. Do you do happy hours?”
While that line — more about it later — is catching the most attention the pertinent tidbit of information that is arguably the worst kept secret in Manteca politics: Breitenbucher’s distaste for Mayor Ben Cantu’s pontificating at council meetings about what has happened in Manteca over the past four decades.
It comes up after Larson states, “I think it comes down to a choice I will campaign for Cantu and I supported his recall. That speaks volumes Lol!”
That, of course was before Larson decided to run for mayor herself.
But it does point out that Larson doesn’t believe Cantu and Gary Singh are joined politically at the hip as her campaign stresses to the point that it prompted Frank Aquila, one of her most enthusiastic backers, to refer to them as “Ben Singh and Gary Cantu”.
However, the email communication is clearly is a statement, from her perspective, that reflects Cantu as being the lesser of two evils.
Breitenbucher replies by writing, “Do not campaign for Ben. Let Singh win, then he is gone 6 months to 2 years. With Mike (Morowit who is running for the District 4 council seat) on there, we can get Charlie (Halford, a council member whose term expires in 2023) to work with us. I don’t want to spend another 4 years listening to 40 years ago!”
The inference to Singh being gone in two years if he is elected mayor is based on the assumption that those in political circles are making that Singh will be running for the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors in 2024 when Tom Patti terms out.
The new district is anchored by Manteca and Lathrop with a bit of Stockton tossed in.
As such it will be the first time in more than four decades that a seat exists on the Board of Supervisors with a population base that favors candidates from Manteca or Lathrop.
As for the six months part, the working theory would be if Patti gets elected Nov. 8, Singh would be a logical leading choice for Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint to fill the vacant supervisor seat given Singh would be the highest profile registered Democrat.
“My goal is to be the best mayor possible to be the mayor of Manteca if the public gives me the opportunity to do so.” Singh said on Tuesday. “If opportunities arise, I will consider them.”
Want another bizarre twist?
David Cushman, who was unsuccessful as a Manteca City Council candidate a few years back, is the political director for Patti’s congressional campaign as well as an advisor for Cantu’s mayoral campaign. Cushman is also the architect of Cantu’s defeat of incumbent Mayor Steve DeBrum — who also harbors thoughts of serving as a supervisor — in 2018 that many viewed as an upset victory.
It doesn’t take a political genius to paint a scenario of what might happen next.
Although Cushman declined to comment, someone could point out Cantu would likely be a four-year mayor if he was elected.
At the same time, Singh’s most adherent supporters in Manteca as well as Tracy, Mountain House, Ripon, Stockton, and Lodi could see a vote for Patti for Congress as a vote to elevate Singh to supervisor as early as next year.
“I’m in it for Manteca, I want to get things done as mayor for Manteca and then go back into retirement,” Cantu said Tuesday.
Cantu added that he “absolutely” intends to serve for four years as mayor if he is re-elected.
Cantu did not slam Singh if he ultimately seeks other offices.
“He’s a young man,” Cantu said of Singh. “He’s ambitious.”
Singh said that when he was appointed to the planning commission he was focused 100 percent on the job at hand. The same is of his being elected as a council member and the same will be true if he is elected mayor.
Then there is the issue of Breitenbucher appearing a tad Machiavellian.
The exchange points to him trying to cobble together a council majority — himself, Morowit if he is elected, and Halford — to pursue a different site for the proposed homeless navigation center besides the 8 acre site on South Main Street.
That is because Larson, at the time, wasn’t running for mayor. Instead, her energies were focused on the Mantecans4Change effort to derail the homeless navigation center from being built on property directly across the street from where she lives.
Breitenbucher has always made it clear he will keep looking for a site he believes is better than South Main Street until it is a 100 percent done deal. It is why he was meeting with the group to listen to their concerns. That said, Breitenbucher has also stressed if the Main Street site moves forward he’ll do everything he can to make it work as envisioned.
Breitenbucher made it clear Tuesday that while he disagrees with Singh and Cantu on various issues — as well as concurs in many instances — he doesn’t believe Cantu is best suited to serve a mayor.
Larson asked Breitenbucher on May 27, “Did you really withdraw from the mayor’s race. Totally your right but we would like to find a suitable replacement to support. Although, I thought you were primed.”
Breitenbucher replied, “Yes I did, (due) to many variables. People were worried if I lost. This way guaranteed to keep my seat and get to work with Mike Morowit.”
Breitenbucher is running un-opposed to reelection to District 3. Although in an ironic twist Michelle Flores — spelled with one “L” and who is a neighbor of Larson’s — briefly considered running against him.
At any rate, Larson replied back to Breitenbucher saying, “People had faith you would win, but I understand. Ben vs Singh. Looks like Cantu for another 4 years. Lol.”
To which Breitenbucher replied, “ No. Gary will win, he has the money behind him.”
Breitenbucher, by the way, did meet with members of mantecans4change which included Larson to hear their concerns about the city.
And it wasn’t a “happy hour” event.
“I only have happy hours when I’m camping,” Breitenbucher said Tuesday prior to coaching a Sierra High water polo match. “When I met with them I only had water and sodas.”
Given how things are going in this race, perhaps the brand of soda Breitenbucher was served could become an issue.
It should be noted that Larson — as the email infers — has been a dynamic force in upsetting the proverbial apple cart in terms of Manteca politics as usual.
That said there’s only 27 days left until Election Day.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org