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.”

Political Notebook: No TV in 5th Assembly race and other quick hits as Election Day nears

A few tidbits and quick hits as Election Day closes in:

The 5th Assembly District sprawls across all or parts of nine counties in the western Sierra foothills, across the highest peaks and over to the Nevada border.

There’s tons of square miles, and no real big cities.

So how does a candidate reach voters? Not by television, it seems, at least not during the general election.

Calaveras County businessman Rico Oller and Madera County Supervisor Frank Bigelow are passing up TV in favor of radio, lots of radio, as well as mailers, to get their message to voters.

“TV for that district is nearly impossible,” said said political analyst Tony Quinn, a former GOP legislative aide and co-editor of California Target Book, a nonpartisan analysis of legislative and congressional races.

The main TV markets are Fresno and Sacramento — or even Reno — but they only cover parts of the district. It’s not much bang for the buck, Quinn said.

Both Oller and Bigelow have purchased radio spots on stations in Bishop, Sonora, Fresno, Modesto, Merced, Jackson, Mammoth Lakes and Stateline and Reno in neighboring Nevada.

It’s hard to get all seven Fresno City Council members to agree on much of anything, but it appears they’ve come together on State Center Community College District trustee Richard Caglia.

Lee Brand, Andreas Borgeas, Blong Xiong, Larry Westerlund, Sal Quintero, Oliver Baines and Clint Olivier have all endorsed Caglia for reelection over challenger Kevin Hall in District 7 on the State Center board.

A few weeks ago Fresno County Supervisor Debbie Poochigian not only announced her endorsement of Jim Patterson over Bob Whalen in the 23rd Assembly District race, she also sent her constituents a letter urging them to support the former Fresno mayor as well.

Now, we know how much that cost.

Patterson’s latest campaign finance report shows Poochigian spent $3,635.52 on postage, envelopes and letters.

Otto Lee, the Bay Area Democrat who is challenging incumbent Republican Devin Nunes in the 22nd Congressional District, is now a Clovis resident.
Lee, a lawyer and former City Council member and mayor of Sunnyvale, had lived in the Bay Area during the primary. But this week his campaign said he was a Clovis resident.

Fresno County elections officials confirmed Lee changed his voter registration from Sunnyvale to a Clovis apartment in June.