Photo: Rep. Josh Harder (far right, shaking hands) greets supports at his campaign headquarters on Election night (Vivienne Aguilar)
Most of Tuesday’s races in Stockton can be seen as a battle between those who believe government is for the people and those who see government as a cash register.
Before we go there, a caveat: over half the ballots cast in San Joaquin County have been counted, but uncounted thousands remain. Things could change.
At the top of the local ticket, Congressman Josh Harder, D-Tracy, has a 57%-43% lead over Stockton Republican Tom Patti. Harder had two big advantages: a 10-to-1 campaign war chest and upwards of 57,000 more Dems than Republicans in his newly redrawn district.
“Harder just drowned him in money,” said Lee Neves, a campaign consultant with CrossCurrents LLC.
Harder hammered Patti as “Pay-More Patti,” a self-enriching extremist, though the claim Patti supported raising the gas tax was a stretch. County Supes don’t raise the gas tax (Patti was on the board a couple years ago when it voted to support a proposed state gas surtax).
Patti also Tasered himself in the foot. A Machiavellian détente with his opponents on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors would have been in his interests. Instead, the hopelessly combative Patti behaved so badly towards them he triggered an ethics investigation and got himself censured.
This race may narrow, as Dems tend to vote early, and Republicans wait until election day.
If Patti loses, look for him to seek another office.
Where the cash register theme comes in has to do with the 209 Times, a Stockton-based political smear and self-enrichment machine disguised as a news site.
It’s my belief that the people behind the 209 Times vie for government board majorities they can monetize. They and their Council allies tried to oust Stockton City Manager Harry Black once and narrowly failed.
Given a majority of allies on the Board of Supervisors they may try the same thing with County Administrator Jay Wilverding: seek to replace him with someone who will write favorable contracts which a board majority can dole out.
As things stand, the board is split. A key will be newly elected Supervisor Paul Canepa. Canepa is a go-along-to-get-along kind of politician. He needs to take a stand.
In Assembly District 13, Tracy Mayor Pro Tem Veronica Vargas, a Democrat, failed to pose much of a challenge to incumbent Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua, also a Democrat, of Stockton. She trails him 38.45% to 61.55%
Villapudua is a prodigious, almost promiscuous, fundraiser. Add that Vargas ran for Supervisor two years ago as a Republican. Calling herself a “Proud Democrat” now may have rung hollow..
Stockton City Councilman Sol Jobrack, an honest councilman who did his homework, is losing 40.11% to 59.89% to challenger Michelle Padilla. Jobrack is the victim of a 209 Times smear campaign.
The 209 Times alleged without evidence that Jobrack muscled developers for money. Also, Jobrack declined to walk his district, ceding the ground game to Padilla.
Also, campaign finance documents show 209 Times lieutenant Xochitl Paderes contributed $3,000 to Padilla’s campaign. A clear conflict of interest for journalist Paderes and the 209 Times. The documentation is below:
The Council, like the Board of Supes, is split between 209 Times allies, opponents, and people trying to be Switzerland.
The most uplifting result is the apparent expulsion or terming out of three Stockton Unified School District Board members, and the reelection of the lone dissenter.
The 7-person board has been a dumpster fire of incompetence and suspicious dealings. The subject of two phasers-on-kill Grand Jury reports, the board is under investigation by the FBI, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, a state auditor hunting for missing millions, and the California State Employees Association.
It is alleged that the 6-1 board majority was hand-picked by disgraced former Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva, who has been awarded pool and other contracts in return.
This clown show stands as a cautionary example of what happens when the Cash Register Crew succeeds in gaining a majority.
The 209 Times cruelly attacked honest trustee AngelAnn Flores and covered for the others. But Flores appears to be on the road to reelection, and the board to a 4-3 reformer majority.
Let’s hope so. If the incumbents retain their majority, I predict they soon will replace reform-minded Interim Superintendent Traci Miller with some colluding sleazebag.
Unless, as is possible, they are perp-walked away by police. Stay tuned.
Michael Fitzgerald’s column usually runs on Wednesdays. Phone (209) 687-9585. On Twitter and Instagram as Stocktonopolis. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.