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Two take out papers for mayor, five for Lathrop City Council seat
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LATHROP – It hasn’t even been a week and seven people have already taken the first step necessary to seek a position on the Lathrop City Council.

With the candidate filing period opening last Thursday, City Clerk Mitzi Ortiz reported on Monday that incumbent Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos had taken the first step towards re-election while sitting councilman Sonny Dhaliwal has thrown his hat in the ring for the city’s top elected position.

Since Dhaliwal’s seat on the council is safe for at least another two years – the position will have to be filled if he does garner the top post – a total of two other seats are up for grabs.

Vice Mayor Christopher Mateo – who is running for newly-drawn California Assembly District 12 – will give up his seat outright while Martha Salcedo, who will be seeking reelection, will have to go to the voters. Also taking out papers were active local resident Omar Khweiss, Debra Rock, former business owner Dan MacNeilage and previous candidate Brent Maynor.

While it’s still too early in the political season to see any official campaigning underway, it’s only a matter of time before things start warming up.

Whether they get as heated as they did two years ago remains to be seen.

Two years ago Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely was handily elected to serve on the council and withdrew his name from consideration citing a potential conflict of interest. He learned later that none existed. The seated members opted to take the candidate with the next most votes which paved the way for then 19-year-old Omar Ornelas to claim his seat.

And that opened up a can of worms that took more than a month to sort out.

In the meeting following Ornelas’ appointment, Santos – who himself was recently elected after voters decided to oust incumbent Kristy Sayles – tried to rescind his vote and cancel the council action to nullify Ornelas’ appointment.

He went so far as to call in an expert in Parliamentary procedure, a professor from the University of the Pacific, to help plead his case to the other members of the council and get somebody other than the young but experienced – Ornelas was extremely active on the Youth Advisory Commission – appointed to the position.

The move didn’t work, and created visible tension among certain members of the council. Several times over the course of the last two years Santos has pointed out that the body was going to be working together – stating as recently as July 16 that they were adhering to a “we, not me” mindset when it came to the business of the city.

According to Ortiz the filing statements and signatures from 20 valid registered voters from within the city limits need to be in by Aug. 10 to qualify. The filing itself is free but a candidate’s statement that will be included in the sample ballot will run roughly $800.