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.”