Many lo­cal races still up in air; Mur­phy leads for mayor

Some can­di­dates still neck and neck in hours af­ter polls closed

Merced Sun-Star - - Front Page - BY THAD­DEUS MILLER tmiller@mer­ced­

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.

Los Banos

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.

Dos Pa­los

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.

State elec­tions

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.

AN­DREW KUHN akuhn@mer­ced­

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.

AN­DREW KUHN akuhn@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.

AN­DREW KUHN akuhn@mer­ced­

Stick­ers wait to be handed out to vot­ers at the Merced County Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing in Merced on Tues­day.

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