Donohue Dances In
Broad coalition gathers at the Rodeo Grounds to welcome Salinas’ new mayor.
Thursday, November 9, 2006
The Chicano All Stars bust into the Los Lonely Boys song “Heaven” after election results for the Salinas mayor’s race are announced. The concrete dance floor of the Jack Daniels Room of the California Rodeo Grounds fills with friends and supporters of the winner, Dennis Donohue. They try not to two-step into a table laden with grilled tri-tip, salad and vegetable trays.
Donohue sways for a moment on the dance floor and then stops to pose for a photo. Councilwoman Gloria De La Rosa is on the hunt for more people to pull onto the dance floor.
Donohue’s supporters are sipping Coronas or Jack-and-Cokes. Some are gathered along a wooden bar with a bull’s head hanging on the wall behind it. Others are hovering around two flat-screen TVs, watching elections results scroll on the bottom of the screen.
“At the end of the day, if I am not connected to the community, I will not be effective.”
The room of Donohue supporters includes business people, lawyers, slow-growth proponents and library advocates. Orly Jimenez, president of the Filipino Community of Salinas Valley, watches as Donohue dances with his wife Paula. “I think he will be a good mayor for everybody,” Jimenez says.
Donohue defeated Salinas City Councilwoman Maria Giuriato in a race to replace four-term mayor Anna Caballero, who is across town, monitoring results in her own race for the state Assembly.
A radicchio grower and chairman of the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce, Donohue promises that he will be a mayor for all of Salinas.
“At the end of the day, if I am not connected to the community, I will not be effective,” Donohue says over the Latin rock music.
Donohue says he wants to make Salinas the center for agricultural innovation. He also plans to make Salinas streets safer so that the city can attract new businesses.
“People who know him and have worked with him know that he works hard, that he loves Salinas and he has a vision,” says Jane Parker, assistant director of the Action Council of Monterey County.
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At Giuriato’s campaign headquarters in Oldtown, the mood is decidedly less jovial. A crowd of high school students and parents stand around a TV, watching the 10pm news. A half-eaten buffet of chicken, pork, rice and beans is spread along the wall of the former bank building at 201 Main St.
Despite the numbers, Giuriato displays the upbeat confidence for which she is known. “To me this is still a victory, because I was willing to challenge the good ol’ boys,” she says. She says she forced Donohue’s campaign to spend a lot of money to defeat her.
Giuriato, who is wearing a pink tank top with silver dots, says goodbye to one of her young volunteers. She tells the campaign worker that the risk she took, which will cost her her District 5 seat, was worth it. “I’m still a community leader and I don’t need to have a title,” Giuriato says.
In other races, Steven Villegas, a County Sheriff’s detective, beat out Roberto Garcia and Angie Morfin Vargas to represent northwest Salinas. Incumbent Janet Barnes won a third term representing south Salinas District 3, defeating Joel Panzer.
The second time was a charm for Tony Barrera, president of the Alisal Betterment Association. Barrera ousted 13-year Councilman Roberto Ocampo from his southeast Salinas District 2 seat.