OverviewVoter Guide: Stockton City Council races:
Candidates get one final chance to speak their minds as voters go to the polls
Primary Election day is here, with many voters choosing elected representatives for newly-formed and/or redrawn state, congressional and local districts.
Stocktonia News Service spoke with candidates running for the Stockton City Council to give them the opportunity to speak to voters directly one more time before the polls close.
Three Stockton City Council districts are on the ballot this year, and here’s what those candidates had to say:
Ogbah was born in Nigeria and is married with two boys. A graduate from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s degree in project management, Ogbah moved to Stockton seven years ago from Sacramento with his family to be closer to their church, where he serves as a deacon.
Ogbah also works as an outreach coordinator for the Stockton-based Amelia Ann Adams Whole Life Center, describing his role there as being a social worker. The center connects families and residents of “the Community Strong area of Bancroft, Rion, Salters, Darby Court, Stanfield, and Kelley Drive in Stockton” to needed resources.
Though the City Council is technically a nonpartisan office, Ogbah has been endorsed by the local club Stockton Democrats Together.
The City Council hopeful decided to run for the gig because he wants to help solve the issues he sees in Stockton.
“It breaks my heart to see some people who are on the street and all that. It breaks my heart to see the crime wave going on,” Ogbah said. “And knowing that there is a way you can help, but you are limited on what you can do.”
People shouldn’t be going hungry in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Ogbah said. Ogbah isn’t opposed to the U.S. helping other countries, but he says the government should also be taking care of their own.
Ogbah also doesn’t believe issues like homelessness should be partisan. He describes his campaign as not one of animosity or one that calls people names and, if elected, wants to help build the foundations for long-term solutions that will continue even when the city’s leadership changes.
“We don’t care who made it worse, or what made it worse,” Ogbah said. “We’re trying to figure out the problem.”
Among other issues, he will focus on bringing back better jobs to Stockton, decreasing the wage gap, attracting outside investments, working to solve homelessness and create more affordable housing.
“I’m focused on the wellbeing of Stockton,”Ogbah said. “The government cannot solve everyone’s problems 100%. But there are things we can do as a government to ensure that things don’t escalate.”
Jobrack says his experience sets him apart from other candidates. He also doesn’t just tell constituents simply what they want to hear.
“I really get how things work,” Jobrack said, describing his approach to city government as pragmatic.
Jobrack spent four years on the Stockton Planning Commision before being elected to Stockton City Council. He has also been endorsed by a host of local organizations and elected officials, including the Stockton Police Officers’ Association and Stockton Professional Firefighters Local 456, as well as by fellow councilmembers Dan Wright, Susan Lenz, Paul Canepa and Kimberly Warmsley and San Joaquin County Supervisor Miguel Villapadua.
Candidates often tell voters that the city’s problems, such as homelessness, are easy to solve, Jobrack said. But he says that kind of rhetoric does a disservice to constituents and instead prefers to be real with people.
“I don’t feel like I’m just providing fluff,” Jobrack said. “I kind of tell them what (the problem) is and what’s important and how we can make measurable change.”
The District 1 councilman graduated from San Joaquin Delta College with a degree in general education before transferring to San Jose State, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in public relations. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California.
Jobrack grew up in Stockton, graduating from Bear Creek High School. It’s also the place where he and his wife, Jessica, a Stockton Unified School District teacher, have chosen to raise their three children. He noted that his whole life has pretty much been spent in the city and District 1 in particular.
“This isn’t a career for me,” he said.
Jobrack described his first term as “a busy four years” and says he will continue focusing on initiatives like securing funding for maintenance of community amenities, such as the city’s parks and swimming pools, and funding public art projects. He will also continue tackling homelessness in Stockton, which he described as a statewide issue, and making sure the city’s police department is adequately staffed and supported.
“That’s been kind of some of the problems historically, is that constant turnover doesn’t really allow people or the city to build on their successes,” Jobrack said. “So I think what this will allow is for me to build on some of the things that I’ve been working on and keep that momentum going.”
Despite some of the rhetoric going around, Jobrack says positive things are occurring in Stockton.
“There’s a lot of good on the horizon,” Jobrack said. “If you pay attention, it’s easy to see that there’s good things happening.”
Padilla was not immediately available for comment.
According to her campaign website, Padilla’s priorities if elected to Stockton City Council are homelessness, crime and community revitalization.
“Investment in the community should be our priority,” Padilla said on her website. “Your safety and future is what will strengthen Stockton.”
Padilla’s ballot designation is listed as educator.
Blower says he gets asked a lot why he wants to run for Stockton City Council.
“People wonder if I’ve lost my mind,” Blower said with a chuckle.
Blower was appointed to the City Council in February 2016 to represent District 4 but lost election later that year to the district’s current Councilwoman Susan Lenz. But the local real estate broker describes himself as a lifelong Stocktonian and credits his parents with instilling in him the importance of giving back.
“I really do love my community. I love my city,” Blower said. “And I felt that I still had more to give.”
Blower now has Lenz’s support in his bid to represent District 3. He has also been nominated by myriad other local organizations and elected officials, including City Council members Dan Wright and Sol Jobrack, Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln, Vice Mayor Christina Fugazi, San Joaquin County Supervisors Miguel Villapudua and Kathy Miller, and state Assembly members Carlos Villapudua and Heath Flora, as well as the Stockton Police Officers’ Association, Stockton Professional Firefighters and Deputy Sheriff’s Association.
Blower describes himself as the kind of guy who can get along with just about anyone. He likes to build coalitions and prefers working together, Blower said.
“It’s more important to focus on the things that we agree on, as opposed to things that we disagree on,” Blower said. “And that’s one thing I think is sorely missing in a lot of politics. Particularly on the national level, you see where everybody focuses on their differences and they don’t get anything done.”
Having already served on the council, Blower says his experience and the fact that he has “a realistic understanding of how city government operates” sets him apart from his fellow candidates. He has also been endorsed by nearly every member of the current City Council.
“I already have relationships and can work with these people,” Blower said. “And that’s really important in getting the job done.”
If elected, Blower will focus on homelessness, keeping neighborhoods safe, creating better paying jobs and holding the city’s government fiscally accountable. He says public safety is particularly important and the city’s needs to make sure firefighters and police receive competitive wages.
“I really want to do everything I can to make this city the kind of place where (my daughters) want to come back or they want to stay in Stockton,” Blower said.
Hawley-Ortiz says working families and residents from her generation do not have enough representation on the Stockton City Council.
“I’m a working class candidate and I just had a daughter, so I’m acutely aware of what working families are going through and what resources are available,” the 28-year-old Stockton native said.
She also says there isn’t enough transparency in local government and that in the last decade or so the city has been experiencing high crime rates, increased homelessness, rising rent and a lack of affordable housing.
Hawley-Ortiz has spent most of her life in Stockton and both her and her husband’s families are based in the city. She is an alumna of Lincoln High School, San Joaquin Delta College and the Stockton campus of Cal State University, Stanislaus.
Even though Stockton has been named one of the most fiscally secure cities in the country and “did OK” during the COVID-19 pandemic overall, Hawley-Ortiz says there’s still a lot of issues that need to be tackled.
“There’s a lot of priorities that I don’t think have been made for my generation, specifically,” Hawley-Ortiz said, noting that many people around her age have had to move back in with their parents for financial reasons or couldn’t afford to leave home in the first place. “I would like to have a voice for people that are like me.”
Hawley-Ortiz says people her age need “opportunity and hope” and she wants to see programs that were stripped away due to the Great Recession restored, such as affordable housing and more programs for families. That’s what a majority of voters want too, she said.
She adds that Stockton is a beautiful city with so much to offer and recommend it, such as its diversity, cultural inclusion and the Port of Stockton, but the city has never had a chance to reach its true potential.
“I want to see Stockton better than it ever has been,” Hawley-Ortiz said. “And I don’t know if that ambition is on the council as it is or if that needs to come from new members and new thoughts and younger people that want to stay here.”
If elected, Hawley-Ortiz says her top three focuses will be affordable housing, such as more progressive rent control measures and not giving luxury apartment contracts priority; homelessness, such as providing more public restrooms and improving those the city already has; and investing in youth programs, such as those for working class and impoverished families and prioritizing areas where they’re needed most.
“I really just want to see Stockton be as amazing as it can be and it has been,” Hawley-Ortiz said. “There’s so much pain that everyone has gone through. I really want to provide some kind of hope for people, to say that we can turn this around, we can still make it through and we can work together to make the city as beautiful as it can be.”
Lo was not immediately available for comment.
According to his campaign website, Lo was born in Laos and immigrated to the U.S. in 1978 during the Vietnam War. He has lived in Stockton for 40 years and graduated from Tokay High School.
Lo Shoua graduated from San Jose State with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and received a master’s degree in homeland security and emergency management from National University. He has worked as a professional environmental, health and safety engineer for nearly 20 years and previously ran for Stockton mayor in 2020.
His ballot designation is listed as businessman/engineer.
Shoua’s campaign website states that he is running for Stockton City Council because the city deserves better.
“He believes that the role of City Government is to provide services, programs that will ensure the City will be self-sustaining, and less of a burden on its residents,” it said.
Johnson says District 5 hasn’t had leadership in years given that current Councilwoman Christina Fugazi was terming out and that he’s noticed a lot of disparity still within the district.
“I felt like, as well as some of the folks around, … it might be a good time to try and push for something that was more youth focused but also something very engaged with the people that are actually in the community looking for the changes that they want to see,” Johnson said.
Johnson grew up in Fairfield but moved to Stockton in 2017. He went to San Joaquin Delta College before being accepted to the University of California, Berkeley, where he’s majoring in political science and African American studies.
According to his campaign website, the 23-year-old community organizer was an intern to former Mayor Michael Tubbs, served in Delta College’s student government, as well as several statewide education committees under the California Community College chancellor’s office, and has worked with various community-based organizations.
When he initially moved to Stockton, Johnson said he was troubled, suffering from mental health issues and substance, and also trying to figure out what to do with his life. But then Johnson found refuge in what he described as “an amazing support system” in the city.
Johnson says he understands what stigma feels like and the importance of second chances.
“I just don’t want to see people end up taking the same path I did,” Johnson said. There’s “something that’s therapeutic about being able to give people the opportunity to do better. It’s just a great feeling.”
Some people simply rely on name recognition to get elected rather than putting in any real effort, such as conducting community outreach, or offering attainable solutions, Johnson said. Running for office should be about who’s going to be the best fit for the job and what the issues are.
“I want to make sure that people have full accountability for who I am not just as a person, but as a person who’s going to be on the (City Council),” Johnson said.
If elected, Johnson says the pertinent issues he will be focused on for his district include accurately accessing and working to end homelessness, economic development, reimagining a public safety system that gets to the root causes of crime rather than punitive and food deserts. He also wants South Stockton to have a solidified mental health trauma center, specifically an organ that supports the community’s youth.
“That’s something that will be able to kind of be responsive, both socio economically and culturally, to the stigmas that we have,” Johnson said. “And hopefully building a new culture for the south side so that folks are not reimplementing generational trauma as well as cyclical violence that we continuously have more contained on the south side.”
Johnson says his community is well aware of the issues they face and he wants the people to feel empowered to do something about it, noting that a lot of activism became stifled during the COVID-19 pandemic. But he says it doesn’t have to continue to be that way.
“I just hope people are able to have the opportunity to look through the information clearly, do the fact checking and look at what candidates will actually have they’re interests at heart,” Johnson said.
Brando Habran Villapudua
Villapudua did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
According to his campaign website, the Stockton planning commissioner is a father and lifelong Stocktonian.
“To foster a healthy and strong community, we must nurture each citizen. Providing opportunities of employment, business development, higher education, and raising their family in a safe environment all become contributors to a healthy home,” Villapudua said on his campaign website.