In the backyard of Salinas City Council candidate Andrew Sandoval’s North Salinas home, about three dozen supporters are gathered around patio heaters and fire pits, noshing on catered tacos and talking about the future. Sandoval, who owns a bridal supply store, has amassed a following that includes community college students who never knew anyone would listen to their concerns and elderly neighbors who went door-to-door to campaign for him.
“You don’t see a lot of things getting done for people who are like us,” says Kenya Burton, a Hartnell College student who just turned 18 and led a group of high school students in campaigning for Sandoval. “What called to me is Andrew’s perspective of what’s happening in this district. Once you know the struggle, as he does, it’s easier to join him.”
A few miles away, Sandoval opponent Christie Cromeenes’ supporters had also gathered for tacos, at a strip mall restaurant on North Main Street. But if Sandoval’s followers were everyday people, Cromeenes’ supporters were a different crowd: former Police Chief Kelly McMillin, Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paul Farmer and Councilmember Kimbley Craig.
By 10pm, as the Elections Department updated its results, it looked likely that establishment would win out over grassroots. Of Sandoval and Cromeenes, the two running to take over the District 5 seat Craig will vacate, Cromeenes was maintaining a steady and healthy lead.
If her lead holds and she wins the race, Cromeenes says she plans on spending her first days in office meeting more constituents and ferreting out their concerns.