Many local races still up in air; Murphy leads for mayor
Some candidates still neck and neck in hours after polls closed
The earliest results from Merced County polls showed some clear leads in local city council races, but many contests are still open-ended.
Atwater Mayor Jim Price started the night off behind at 35.4 percent of the earliest votes returned in his bid for re-election against Councilmember Paul Creighton, who has 65.4 percent of the vote.
Hanging in the balance in Atwater is the employment of Police Chief Samuel Joseph, who was placed on leave back in January. Creighton supported the decision while Price did not. The two have also fallen on opposite in the hiring of City Attorney Doug White and City Manager Lori Waterman, both of which were supported by Creighton.
Atwater politics has been particularly nasty in the past two years with two sides of the divided council accusing each other of legal and ethical violations.
Councilmember Brian Raymond, who has voted along with Creighton on those highprofile decisions, saw 62.6 percent of the early vote against opponent Don Hyler III, who had 37.3 percent in the District 4 election.
District 3 candidates Danny Ambriz (45.8 percent) and Dan Hernandez (54.1 percent) were not separated by much. Hernandez has been openly critical of the Atwater city attorney and the decision to put Joseph on paid leave.
Merced Mayor Mike Murphy took a commanding lead with about 72 percent of the returns over his opponent Monica Kay Villa, a homeless woman and advocate. Murphy ran on a campaign touting his first two years in the seat and his slogan “Merced — a city on the rise.”
Delray Shelton, a Merced County Sheriff’s sergeant, was in a tight race with 48.8 percent of the vote in District 6. Buhach Colony teacher John Bliss had 51.1 percent of the early returns. Both candidates spoke during their campaigns about adding to the city’s public safety, issues around homelessness and improving downtown.
The District 4 race saw a greater distance between candidates as Councilmember Kevin Blake, also a sheriff’s sergeant, had 57.4 percent of votes compared to 42.5 percent for challenger Karla Seijas, a UC Merced employee.
South Merced’s District 2 had candidate Fernando Echevarria, who moved from Atwater about three years ago, with 78.7 percent of the vote. About 21.2 percent of voters cast a write-in vote. The only qualified write-in candidate in the race was Ronnie De Anda, who was raised in Merced.
Incumbent Mayor Mike Villalta, seeking his fifth term this election, had 68.6 percent of the returns and a comfortable lead. He led business owner Nilson Gomes
Filho who had 31.3 percent.
Also on the council for several years, Councilman Tom Faria (61.4 percent) had the lead over Refugio Llamas (35.8 percent), who has lost the race to Faria before in District 2. District 3 candidate Brett Jones had an early lead with 58.1 percent compared to 41.8 percent for John Cates.
Three sitting councilmembers and a retiree are facing off for the mayor’s seat. Gurpal Samra (55.2 percent) had a significant lead over Alex McCabe (21.9 percent) and Juan Aguilar Jr. (14.9 percent). Retiree Mario Luera rounded out the race with 8 percent.
Hopefuls for one of the three seats were separated by few votes in a crowded ballot. The candidates: Gagandeep Kang had 27.6 percent; Raul Garcia had 14.5 percent; Garry Gurpreet Singh had 12.8 percent; Maria Baptista Soto had 11.2 percent; Jason Roth had 9 percent; Elias Jesus Maldonado III had 7.4 percent; Jay Abrams had 6.3 percent; and Mucio Vera Jr. and Roberto Godinez were tied at 5.5 percent.
Incumbent Thomas Lee Pigg led the race with 35.3 percent of the vote for one of two open seats. Bookkeeper Deborah Orlando had 29.6 percent, community advocate Alice Thompson garnered 26.2 percent, retiree Kuldip Mahal tallied 9 percent.
Patrick Nagy, who has been on the council since 2008, tallied 66.2 percent of the vote while newcomer Zachary Ramos had 33.7 percent in the bid to be mayor.
There are two seats up for election in Gustine. Rich Ford, a business owner and former mayor, had 40.5 percent of the vote, followed by Derek Alexander and Lynn Schultz, each hovering around 30 percent.
With 45.2 percent of the vote, state Sen. candidate Anna Caballero, the former mayor of Salinas, trailed Robert Poythress, a Madera County supervisor, who had 54.7 percent.
Incumbent Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, held a healthy lead with 68.1 percent of the vote compared to Libertarian Justin Ryan Quigley, who garnered 31.8 percent.
The District 16 congressional race was closer. Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, held 49.7 percent of returns while challenger Elizabeth Heng had 50.2 percent.
Election workers Loretta Spence, left, Annette Anderson, center, and Julie Hassen assists voters Tuesday at the Merced County Administration Building at 2222 M St. in Merced.
A “Vote Here” sign and tape on windows direct voters to the polls at the Merced County Library at 2100 O St. in Merced on Tuesday.
Stickers wait to be handed out to voters at the Merced County Administration Building in Merced on Tuesday.