Political newcomer Fernando Cabrera is leading in a three-way race for two open seats on Soledad City Council, while Mayor Anna Velazquez has a strong lead over challenger Maria Corralejo, who is a member of City Council.
As of the latest vote count on midnight Tuesday night, Nov. 8, Velazquez leads with 65 percent of the vote over Corralejo's 35 percent. Corralejo was appointed to a vacant council seat in August on a 3-1 vote of council, with Velazquez objecting.
Cabrera, an educator and Mexican immigrant, was another contender for that appointment. He ran against two incumbents, Alejandro Chavez and Marisela Lara, with Velazquez's endorsement. (Corralejo endorsed Chavez and Lara for re-election.) As of the latest vote count, Cabrera leads with 667 votes, or 37 percent. Chavez is next with 602 votes, or 34 percent; and Lara trails in third with 521 votes (29 percent).
Election Day was rainy and windy in South County. Velazquez and Corralejo both welcomed the rain because of the drought. “My only concern was hopefully that doesn't deter people from coming out to vote,” Velazquez said in the afternoon, before polls closed.
While campaigning, Velazquez says one constituent request that emerged at the top of the list is a need for traffic calming measures to make streets safer for kids. Velazquez adds that she found many many younger voters prepared and planing to vote: ”They're really taking the time to make sure that they know who their candidates are.”
Corralejo started Election Day working since early morning, then returned to campaigning after her work day. “I've been just driving around with my signs, trying to get a little bit more visibility out here in our city,” she says.
Corralejo says she kept her focus on the city’s needs and kept true to herself. “I feel pretty confident that I did that. It was a very successful campaign," she says
To keep herself motivated in the final days of campaigning, Velazquez kept listening to "Girl on Fire" by Alicia Keys. She says that song stayed with her since her last campaign, when it was a favorite among her young volunteers.
Velazquez and Cabrera joined each other for a watch party at Round Table Pizza in Soledad.
As of the most recent vote tally, just 15.6 percent of Soledad voters cast a ballot. While that number is likely to tick up as more vote-by-mail and conditional ballots are counted, it lags behind other cities like Carmel (50 percent), Monterey (37 percent) and Salinas (with 18-percent turnout for the mayoral race, as of the latest count).
This was the last time Soledad will hold at-large elections for its City Council. In 2024, the city will have district elections.