Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Race already shaping up for Fresno City Council’s District 1

The presidential-year elections were less than nine months ago, and the Fresno area has just been through three special elections, but it’s already time to start gearing up for next year’s Fresno City Council contests.

Of the four seats that will be up for grabs, none will likely get more attention than District 1, which covers west-central Fresno. The reason: current Council Member Blong Xiong will be termed out of office, making for an open seat.

Oliver Baines in District 3, Sal Quintero in District 5 and Clint Olivier in District 7 are all eligible to seek re-election. An open seat is always more attractive because there is no incumbent.

Cary Catalano

Already, businessman and community activist Cary Catalano and businessman and Fresno Planning Commission Member Rama Kant Dawar say they’re running.

Catalano, in fact, already has a Facebook page, has designed a campaign brochure, plans to release his initial slate of endorsements this week and has big precinct walk planned for Aug. 10.

“We are ready,” he says.

Right out of the gate, Dawar also has something significant: Xiong’s endorsement.

“I’ve worked with him for a long time,” Xiong said of Dawar. “If he’s still going forward with it, I told him I’d support him.”

The question is, who else — if anybody — will join the race?

Rama Kant Dawar

One intriguing possibility is Marina Magdaleno, who is business representative for the Fresno’s blue-collar union. She was one of the opposition leaders of Measure G, the unsuccessful ballot initiative to privatize the city’s residential trash pickup.

“I’m very interested in running,” she said. “I feel I have a lot to offer.”

Magdaleno, 61, said she still hasn’t made up her mind. “I make a really good salary,” she said of her current job. “It would be a cut in pay, but I’m OK with that. Money isn’t everything.”

Two other familiar names appear to be out — at least for now.

Fresno Unified trustee Carol Mills, 58, said she’s been “asked by many supporters, Republican and Democrat,” to run.

“Although I indicated I was not inclined to run, folks have been trying hard to get me to reconsider,” she said.

Marina Magdaleno

The other is business owner Scott Miller, who lost a tough race for the seat to Xiong in 2006.

Miller, 41, said he’s thought about running again “every day for eight years.” But for Miller, it’s a different world now. The big difference is his business — Gazebo Gardens — which has doubled in size since his run against Xiong.

“As of right now, I’m not in,” he said. ”As much as I love running, love city politics, love the city, love my neighborhood, I do not see it right now.”

So for now that leaves Dawar and Catalano.

Catalano, 39, is the owner of Catalano Fenske & Associates, a Fresno marketing firm.

This is his second council run. He earlier ran in 2002 for the neighboring District 3 council seat, losing in the primary. Cynthia Sterling ended up winning the seat. Baines is now the council member in that district.

“I have no regrets,” Catalano said of that run. “I learned a lot about myself, I learned a lot about the people in the community.”

It also makes him a better candidate this time, he said.

Dawar, 45, is an interpreter, paralegal, notary public, registered income tax preparer, substance abuse specialist facilitator and domestic violence facilitator.

“I want to serve my community,” he said. “I already made up my mind (to run) two years ago.”

Xiong — who said the district is really three distinct regions in the Tower/Fresno High, west of Highway 99 and south of Shaw Avenue areas — had advice for any potential candidate: “It’s about contact. Walking, talking to people.”


holly crawford says:

Dear Fresno, I have known Cary Catalano for 12 years. If you are looking for a true public servant who cares about your neighborhood, Cary is the right choice for Council, District 1. LEADERSHIP is about compromise and you don’t find it much in politics these days. It is our job to elect leaders who will seek out contrary views and ultimately reach decisions that are best for most – not simply best for SELF. Vote for Cary. You’ll be happy you did.

Sara Mirhadi-Offen says:

Congrats to Cary for running for District 1. I have known Cary for 20 plus years and he is excellent choice for the district. He is such a well rounded candidate because he owns his owns business and has worked in the community for many years. He understands the struggles that small business owners goes through and he is passionate about his community. I believe he can build consensus within City Hall and heal the political divisions in the community. I know I am biased because I have known for many years but the there is no better choice for District 1.

Libby Williamson says:

I have known Cary Catalano for over 25 years, and have watched him go from enthusiastic college student to serious civic leader. He is totally engaged in his community, he genuinely cares about Fresno, and he will represent his district and his city with sound, caring, intelligent

Kacey says:

It’s still early

Philip Neufeld says:

I have known Cary for many years through his firm’s stellar work making organizations more effective and visible. I’ve been amazed at Cary’s ability to connect non-profit, private and public organizations and people in a community around a cause so that the overall effort is far greater than any group alone could have mustered. Cary’s ability to connect with people and quickly understand the needs of various communities is unique. Fresno will be well served by Cary’s ability to bring people together to make a positive difference.

Jocelyn Fuller says:

Cary Catalano has a commitment and passion for Fresno that is second to none. He is someone you can count on to do what he says and follow through on his word. Born and raised in the Central Valley, Cary attended Fresno City College and graduated from Fresno State. He’s a proud small business owner for almost 10 years. His is a story that should remind everyone what a great place Fresno is to live and thrive.

In a time when politicians and government seem hard to trust, know that Cary isn’t your typical politician. He has his community’s best interests at heart and he’s someone you can feel good about voting for. Cary Catalano is the type of person that every district would be lucky enough to have as their champion on the City Council.

Roger Bernal says:

Had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Cary Catalano last night. He was walking my neighborhood going door to door and we had a good chat.

I found him to be genuine in his commitment and passion to this district and the neighborhoods within it – as well as his desire to serve the best interest of Fresno and all its residents.

Cary has certainly given me a benchmark that I can use to measure the other candidates that may chose to enter the race for this district. He has set the bar high for anyone that wishes to get my vote.

Don Lovell says:

It is funny that the Blong talked about “It’s about contact. Walking, talking to people.” Never saw him and never got a call back.

Cary on the other hand has been very open and responsive to all my questions. Though we are not in the same party he has my vote. Very impressive guy.

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