Gary Singh appears to be on his way to becoming the first Manteca City Council member of Punjabi American descent as well as one of the youngest — if not the youngest — ever elected.
While there are still an estimated 10,000 absentee ballots left to be verified and counted within Manteca. Singh enjoyed a fairly substantial lead of 5,374 votes as 12:15 a.m. today over the other five candidates seeking two seats.
Incumbent Debby Moorhead was in second with 4,532 votes followed by Jeff Zellner with 4,329 votes. Next was Ben Cantu at 2,096 votes, David Cushman with 1,736 votes, and Eric Hayes at 1,232 votes.
“I’m still confident,” Zellner said of his prospects of overtaking Moorhead to claim the second seat once all the absentee ballots are counted.
In previous city council races in San Joaquin County that have been close, the growing trend toward absentee voting meant the final results were not known for a week to two weeks.
Election workers must manually check signatures on absentee ballots against voter rolls to verify them before they can be counted.
Zellner said he’s buoyed by the number of people Tuesday who have been coming up and saying they voted for him.
Moorhead is seeking her third four-year term.
Singh credited his strong showing to volunteers that have worked for his election and delivering a message that he believes is resonating with voters.
“I believe people like my business background,” Singh said.
Singh — who helps run a family liquor store and is a real estate agent — has a degree from the University Of Pacific School Of Business. He is also chairman of the Manteca Planning Commission.
Singh said a top priority for Manteca for the next four years has to be bringing more business and jobs to the city.
During the campaign he has repeatedly emphasized the need to untangle red tape at city hall and finding ways to simplify and streamline the process for permits and other approvals that the business community has long said can be a deterrent to investing in Manteca.
Singh’s campaign was broad based as he made an effort to reach out to as many different groups and individuals as possible.
Singh would also be the first Sierra High graduate ever elected to the City Council.
His election means the City Council will have two council members that served on the planning commission as well as connected with retail liquor stores. The other is Mike Morowit who was first elected in 2014. Both are also members of the Manteca Rotary Club.
Singh is also only the third minority candidate to gain election to the Manteca City Council. The others were Vince Hernandez and Wayne Flores. Hernandez occupies one of the two seats that were up for grabs Tuesday. Hernandez declined to run after serving for 16 years.
Moorhead is only the fifth woman to get elected to the City Council in its 98-year history. If she is re-elected, she will become the longest serving woman. The others were Trena Kelley, Jeannie Downhower, Jeannie Keaster, and Denise Giordano. Kelley has the distinction of being the first directly elected mayor in Manteca’s history as well as the first to be recalled along with then council members Rick Wentworth and Bobby Davis in the early 1980s over public backlash involving the termination of Leonard Taylor as police chief.
In one of the election’s ironies, Zellner served on the Manteca Chamber of Commerce board at the same time Moorhead was the executive director. Zellner is a former chamber president.
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