The numbers in Tuesday’s Manteca City Council election seem to add up to one conclusion: For the most part folks are generally happy with the direction Manteca is headed.
Not only were incumbents Steve DeBrum and Debby Moorhead returned to office but with most of the ballots counted only 42 votes separated them - DeBrum with 6,742 and Moorhead with 6,720.
DeBrum outspent Moorhead almost 7 to 1. He also had a much bigger volunteer effort and wore holes in his shoes. Moorhead was sidelined during much of the campaign due to an illness. She really didn’t start campaigning until three weeks out.
Ben Cantu, meanwhile, came in third with 5,792 votes after campaigning hard for two years and being outspent by DeBrum 6 to 1. Sheila Raya, a newcomer that surfaced in the race in July, was outspent 28 to 1 by DeBrum and pulled 4,444 votes.
Given the low-key race and the neck-and-neck finish of DeBrum and Moorhead despite a disparity of spending and face time with the community it seems safe to conclude folks are generally happy with things in Manteca. And - as both DeBrum and Moorhead made big efforts to point out Tuesday evening - a lot of that credit falls onto city workers from police officers and firefighters to street workers and clerks that have stepped up and taken on more duties while having compensation reduced.
Of course, Cantu would beg to differ, saying not that everything is OK in The Family City. Raya ran on the premise things are good in Manteca but they can be better if a new set of eyes was helping steer the city.
There’s one other interesting election tidbit to toss into the mix. Moorhead is technically the first woman ever in Manteca to get elected to a second term as a council member. Trena Kelley was the first woman to get elected to the council. That was back in 1976. She then made history again in 1980 by becoming the first directly elected mayor in Manteca as well as the city’s first female mayor. Kelley had one other first as the first mayor to be recalled in 1983. She viewed that as a badge of courage, given the fact she was recalled over firing a popular police chief for what she believed were the right reasons and therefore there was honor in doing the right thing no matter how unpopular it was perceived, even if it meant going down for the count.
Jeanne Dowhower, Jeannie Keaster, and Denise Giordano were subsequently elected to the council but each were defeated in their reelection bids
In a way, this year’s election was a precursor to the main event in November of 2014. That’s when terms for two council seats and the mayor’s post are on the ballot. It could be a wide open horse race as well as a game changer. Mayor Willie Weatherford and Councilman John Harris are leaning heavily toward not running. Vince Hernandez isn’t ready to make an assessment. DeBrum is considered in some quarters a likely candidate for mayor should that happen but he’s staying mum on the subject. At the same time, there are boosters of Hernandez who would like to see him run for mayor. And you can’t rule out Moorhead, who made an unsuccessful run two years ago for the mayor’s post, finishing last in a three-way race with Weatherford and Cantu. On Tuesday, she beat Cantu.
Should any one of the three - DeBrum, Moorhead or Hernandez - run and win election as major assuming Harris and Weatherford do not seek additional terms, that would mean there would be at least two new council members.
But if Hernandez doesn’t run and get reelected there could be three new council members.
That is always the case every four years, but if two long-time players bow out it sets the stage for potentially major changes in the council’s make-up.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.