Three Salinas electeds joust for supervisor seat, one from a living-room campaign HQ.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
County Supervisor Fernando Armenta makes no bones about his dislike for Salinas City Councilman Sergio Sanchez. Before Sanchez entered the District 1 race against Armenta, he helped get the three-term incumbent elected. But reflecting last week at the Weekly’s endorsement interview – where the two declined to shake hands – Armenta remembered Sanchez as an ineffective campaign volunteer.
“He was a big flunky,” Armenta says. “He didn’t follow through.”
Now Sanchez has scaled back his work schedule to three days a week so he can focus on running a vigorous ground campaign out of his East Salinas living room. He’s determined to unseat the well-financed supervisor and also to defeat his own colleague, Salinas City Councilman Tony Barrera.
The three popular elected officials face off in the June 5 primary for the county district representing most of urban Salinas – the county’s smallest, at barely 20,000 registered voters.
Having occupied the supervisorial seat for more than a decade, and a City Council seat for the decade prior, Armenta boasts a hefty war chest: more than $96,000 in the bank as of March 17. He’s also endorsed by the likes of SEIU, United Farm Workers and Monterey County Democratic Central Committee.
Some establishment voices, like the Democratic committee, endorsed a year ago when Armenta was facing a recall attempt that ended in felony charges and a misdemeanor plea for Alisal Union School District Board President Jose Castañeda. (The organizers never submitted enough signatures to get a recall on the ballot.)
Barrera’s campaign had raised $4,500 as of March 17, while Sanchez pulled in about $23,000, with $2,000 contributions from community leaders including real estate mogul Nader Agha and Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, whom Sanchez works for as a district field rep.
Sanchez and his campaign manager, Angel Malchor, work out of Sanchez’s house, where precinct maps are tacked to the living room walls and soda and chips line the counter. On a recent Friday afternoon, a dozen teenagers are snacking and playing the “Black Ops” shooter video game, waiting to start walking.
Short on cash, Sanchez relies on a team of volunteers – most of them too young to vote. “This is the direct mail,” Sanchez says, handing a black-and-white flyer to a kid. “No postage needed.”
Sanchez says if elected, he’ll propose a residents’ bill of rights. “We need to ask residents what kinds of services they want,” he says. “We need to make this a friendlier place for property owners, and for paleteros,” referring to food vendors. Sanchez helped keep their city licensing fees in check in 2008.
Armenta’s also in favor of making the county more business friendly. He was the sole supervisor to hold firm in support of the proposed Whispering Oaks/Marina-Salinas Transit bus yard on the former Fort Ord, even when 18,000 petitioners called for a referendum. He dismissed the reversal by three of his colleagues as “politics only,” and adds, “I’m not sure who’s going to trust the Board of Supervisors anymore.”
Barrera would also like to see less red tape. “Talk about an entrepreneurial spirit,” he says of District 1 residents. “What do they want from government? Accessibility. ‘Man, just get out of the way and let us work.’”