Manteca could conceivably end up with a mayor when December 2022 rolls around who 70 percent of the municipal electorate casting ballots did not vote for.
It’s a real plausible outcome if four candidates run.
As things stand now Mayor Ben Cantu has made it clear that he will seek re-election. Making noise that they might be running as well are three current City Council members — Dave Breitenbucher, Gary Singh, and Charlie Halford.
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.
Two years ago Nancy Young was elected as Tracy’s mayor with 34.85 percent of the vote due to four other candidates running. That means nearly 7 out of 10 Tracy voters opted for someone else besides Young when they were presented with four other options.
The question that wasn’t answered is whether Young would have emerged as that city’s mayor if voters were given a choice in a runoff between her and the second highest vote getter.
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.
Given the City Council is heading down the road to implement district elections in 2022 makes the position of mayor much more significant.
Yes, 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.
Mayors by how they conduct meetings set the tone. It also means they usually do most of the talking.
That re-enforces the misconception that the mayor is the true voice of the city.
And although it may be a misconception — the fact many pay more attention to what the mayor says in shaping their opinions of the City of Manteca — the position of mayor can set the stage for harmony, division, smooth sailing, or chaos.
It will be more so when district elections mean only specific quarters of the city’s population can decide who occupies a specific seat assigned to their district.
That means the only person sitting on the council elected by a citywide vote will be the mayor.
It will only cement the popular position the mayor speaks for the city every time they open their mouth or post on social media. And it could also pump up the self-importance of whoever is mayor by playing the card they are the only one sitting on the council elected citywide so therefore they have a better claim to community consensus on any given council action.
In light of the Grand Jury report calling out several members of the five-member elected body for exceeding their authority and meddling in the day-to-day running of the city, carving out the mayor as the one who has the true pulse on Manteca’s populace by virtue of being the only person elected citywide can have serious ramifications. That is especially true if they get elected without a majority of the electorate voting to cast ballots in their favor.
It is why a suggestion by Halford to conduct a mayoral primary needs to be given serious consideration and ideally be implemented by year’s end.
The Manteca mayoral primary could be consolidated with the June 7, 2022 statewide primary election.
The top two vote getters would advance to a runoff in the Nov. 8, 2022 general election. If someone ends up with a least 50 percent plus one of the ballots cast in June they would win outright. And just like when that happens in San Joaquin County Board of Supervisor races if someone wins the majority of the votes in the June primary they wouldn’t take office until December.
There is too much at stake to allow a minority of the voters casting ballots to elect the only council seat that requires a citywide campaign to occupy it — the mayor’s post.
A primary election would also avoid political maneuvering to run candidates to peel off votes in a Machiavellian bid to boost the candidacy of someone who would have trouble winning in a one-on-one race or even a three-way race.
Now that Halford has floated the trial balloon, the question is whether he will bring the idea up to his fellow council members for consensus to place on an agenda in fairly short order to see if there is support to get a mayoral primary in place in time for the 2022 election.
How other council members respond to the concept might give you an idea of where they stand on whether the next mayor should be elected by a majority of voters and not benefit from political hijinks such as “straw” candidates that have no realistic chance of winning or the splitting up of votes among multiple candidates to take the oath as Manteca’s mayor with perhaps only 35 percent of the vote.
The ball is in Halford’s court — or any other current council member that believes the majority of Manteca’s voters should elect the city’s next mayor and not a minority.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at email@example.com