FRESNO, CA – As the official final counts for the 2018 primary elections are in, Fresno’s city council races could prove to be battles until the finish between competitive candidates. District 1, 3, 5 & 7 primary election results were so splintered from aspiring city council contenders, that it was apparent that the extremely low-voter turnout affected each race.
On the contrary, Fresno’s city council district 1 incumbent, Esmeralda Soria glided into her second term with no opposition, receiving over 96 percent of the primary votes for an easy, likeable win to her seat. It would be the other three districts voted on this primary which had a hard time revealing the winner due to splintered votes between the 3-4 candidates in each of the races; district 3 had the most with seven contenders.
November’s runoff election will reveal the vote between districts 3, 5 & 7: A little less than 20 percent of district 7 residents voted (5,144 total votes), leaving Brian Daniel Whelan with 37.89 percent of the vote against Nelson Esparza, who attracted 37.66 percent of the vote; district 5 attracted 22 percent (6,514 total votes) of its registered voters, leaving incumbent Luis Chavez with 40.83 percent of the vote to contend with Paula Yang, who attracted 36.27 percent of the vote in this past primary.
However the most splintered race out of them all, district 3, seemed to forcibly put two winners to the forefront based on etching percentages so close, that a recount request has been submitted by a contender in third place (update: the recount effort has confirmed that Hill is in the runoff.)
Less than 20 percent of its residents voted (5,462 total votes), promising over 29 percent of those votes to November run-off candidate, Miguel Arias (1,478 total votes.) It would be unfortunate that 421 of those primary ballots would be left blank, leaving candidates James Tate Hill and Daren Miller to continue to battle to the finish, as Hill barely wins second place in the runoff with 768 votes (15.27%), to third place candidate, Daren Miller who garnered 762 total votes, (15.15%.) Candidate Craig Scharton finished with a close 14.31 percent of the vote (720.)
The district 3 primary race’s second place run-off seat was so close that if just 15 percent of the 421 blank ballots had been filled, there could have been a different outcome between Hill, Miller and Scharton in regards to their final placement.
Although district 5 & 7 November Fresno city council races show no more than a 5 percent spread between run-off candidates, district 3 candidate Hill will have to work harder to close the almost 15 percent spread in votes between himself and Arias.
Some of Hill’s challenges include overcoming the heated debate between himself and members of the gay community who reside in the Tower District; according to The Fresno Bee May 31, 2018 article, Hill took campaign donation from FUSD board member Brooke Ashjian who has expressed anti-LGBT views during FUSD school board meetings in reference to California's Healthy Youth Act, which requires schools to teach unbiased and medically accurate sex education, including lessons on birth control, abortion and LGBT relationships.
Emily Cameron, an executive member at-large for the LGBT Caucus of the California Democratic Party, felt that the donation confirmed an endorsement from Ashjian, feeling Hill should drop out of the district three race, encouraging members of the LGBT community to not vote for him.
The ONME Network would usually reach out to the opposing view for comment or clarification; however, Hill has hostilely in public declined to comment to ONME News, and he has bitterly and publicly commented and informed other members of the community the same.
Arias, too, is combating slanderous rumors that have yet to find a foundation in truth: members of the community sent The ONME Network hearsay, unproven sexual harassment allegations in regards to Arias, The ONME News team investigated the accusations and were not able to find any proof of such reports: comments from the community purported that Arias was on administrative leave for sexual harassment allegations; however, The ONME Network was able to confirm that Arias was not on leave from his job and currently still holds his position at Fresno Unified School District.
ONME News did its due diligence, reached out to Arias for comment, and was not able to find any sexual harassment claims filed with any teachers ‘unions or other supportive employee groups against Arias according to false reports submitted to The ONME Network, nor was there evidence of any convictions against Arias for such claims; even the names of women submitted turned out to be erroneous and unfounded. Voters can find out more about Arias’ campaign priorities here.
The elected official who encumbers the district 3 seat has to prepare for the diverse views and high demands in district 3 which is a seat that has historically represented its constituents just over the last 35 years; the last 16 years, African-American elected candidates became the representative for that area (Honorable Oliver Baines and the Honorable Cynthia Sterling.) Prior to that, a Latino elected candidate represented district 3 for eight years, (Dan Ronquillo.) Currently district 3 residents face challenges of gentrification, lack of infrastructure to attract new developers, and the lack of available jobs for residents in the area. So far the last 35 years of leadership have proven to give inadequate results for its current residents who have commented on their dissatisfaction with the existing leadership of their district.
Prior experience will be critical to getting past an impoverished district which has prominent concerns; Arias, who served as the chief of staff for former district 1 city councilman Blong Xiong and an as a legislative assistant for Congressman Calvin Dooley, has the background to deal with such challenges compared to Hill’s experience as the CEO and president of the Fresno Metro Black Chamber Commerce, now currently an employee of Access Plus Capital as a manager since 2016. What residents are crying for is, “no more of the same,” a condition that has plagued the district-three seat when it comes to having experience in city economics and land-use to manage the significant challenges.
The ONME Network is the only African-American digital media distribution and video news outlet in the Central Valley that is the voice across many counties and city council districts; as the African-American community is clearly spread out throughout Fresno, CA, accounting for less than six percent in all other city council districts, the two most condensed African-American populations currently reside in district three (approximately 13.8%) and district four (approximately 10.3%.)
ONME News will continue to keep all members of the public informed on news affecting its readers and viewers.