Business Bucks Help Buy Victory
Well-funded Salinas council challengers knock out incumbents.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
It’s out with the old in the Salinas City Council races.
Thirty-six-year-old nursery owner Steve McShane – who walloped three competitors, including three-term incumbent Janet Barnes – revels in victory at his South Salinas home Tuesday night.
A pizza oven blazes, pet chickens get underfoot, and the candidate’s middle-aged Neighborhood Watch buddies mingle with his friends and family, including one of Salinas’ most powerful businessmen: McShane’s ex-father-in-law, Don Chapin, whose Salinas Valley Leadership Group poured $16,000 into his campaign.
“Our goal is to create awesome leaders,” Chapin says.
McShane’s success is due in no small part to backing by the SVLG, which also donated a whopping $23,500 to 34-year-old marketing consultant Kimbley Craig. She easily wrested a North Salinas council seat from incumbent Steve Villegas, 53 to 37 percent. A third candidate, Jesse Santibanez, garnered 10 percent.
McShane took 43 percent in his district in the semi-final tally; retired police officer Joe Gunter came in second. Barnes took third and planning consultant Joel Panzer brought up the rear.
“People were ready for fresh leadership,” McShane enthuses. McShane, a former Hartnell College Trustee, has served on the city’s Planning Commission since April 2009 – and missed 6 of 17 meetings. But he promises better attendance on the City Council.
Both the Craig and McShane campaigns asserted that a more business-friendly city government would equal more jobs, but neither candidate offered specifics.
“What kind of jobs? Are they going to be good jobs?” wonders Cesar Lara, who heads the Monterey County Central Labor Council, which backed Panzer and Villegas. “With someone like Don Chapin trying to buy the election, I think it’s going to move the city backwards.”
Mayor Dennis Donohue, who garnered 65 percent to easily defeat challengers Margaret Serna-Bonetti and Bill Freeman, says the council was focused on attracting business to Salinas before the election. “It was a question of degree,” he says. “[McShane and Craig] will bring a keener focus.”