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Mayoral primary would cost $202K to conduct June 7
Manteca City Hall
DENNIS WYATT/The Bulletin The first phase of the current city hall was built in 1978 when Manteca had 13,200 residents.

It would cost Manteca $202,000 if they opt to conduct a primary for mayor in June.

The question of whether to conduct a primary was raised as the city moves toward council district elections in 2022. It would mean the mayor would be the only citywide elected post but if three or more people ran for mayor the chances are good that someone could be elected without the majority support of voters that cast ballots.

Whether Manteca will switch to a mayoral primary election will be discussed Tuesday when the City Council meets at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

If the council opts to go with a mayoral primary it would go on the June 7 primary election ballot that includes state offices, members of Congress, and county supervisors.

The top two vote-getters would appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot unless a candidate receives 50 percent of the votes plus one.

Regardless if the next mayor is elected outright in June or is decided in a runoff in November they won’t take their seat on the council until December.

A primary could increase the cost of running for mayor as the top two vote getters would campaign in both the primary and general elections unless a winner was decided outright in June.

It would then require two campaign statements. Primary campaigning usually starts around late February and early March. General election campaigning usually begins around late May or early June.

There were 45.520 registered voters in Manteca as of Sept. 27

Turnout overall in recent San Joaquin County elections included 32 percent in the primary and 57.1 percent in the general during the 2018 election year as well as 46.1 percent in the primary and 80 percent in the general during 2020.

Typically more voters cast ballots in general elections with those held during presidential election years having the highest voter turnout.

The idea of a primary election was advanced by Councilman Charlie Halford.

Halford noted Manteca in 2010 elected a mayor, Willie Weatherford, who only had 43 percent of the vote meaning “57 percent of the voters wanted someone else.”  He pointed out last fall Tracy elected a mayor who had only received 35 percent of the vote.

Manteca has also seated a mayor who failed to secure a majority of the votes. It was in 2010. Willie Weatherford was elected to a third term with 42.78 percent of the vote. Next was Cantu at 21.28 percent, Carlon Perry at 18.24 percent, and Debby Moorhead at 17.32 percent.

It is plausible Cantu could have been elected mayor 11 years sooner if there had been a runoff between him and Weatherford.

In 2018 voters citywide made a clear choice. They elected Cantu with 52.29 percent of the vote as opposed to 47.71 percent for Steve DeBrum.

“I think we need a mayor who the majority of voters elect and not 35 percent,” Halford said during the Sept. 7 council meeting.

So far four people — all current council members — have indicated they are pondering a run for mayor in 2022. Besides incumbent Mayor Ben Cantu who has indicated he plans to make an official announcement soon, those mulling a run are Dave Breitenbucher, Gary Singh, and Halford.

Manteca is a general law city. That means the mayor has no more power to make decisions than each council member. It’s because the only direction anyone who is elected can give when it comes to the people’s business at city hall is when they are part a council majority that casts a vote for a specific course of action.

The mayor’s John Hancock goes on official actions but then again those are actions the majority of the council agrees to and are not unilaterally made by the mayor.

The real power is the soap box Manteca gave the position when the city went with the direct election of mayors in the early 1980s. Prior to that, the council rotated the position among its members on an annual basis as Ripon currently does.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email