Kevin Valine

Modesto News: Modesto’s mayoral candidates set to appear at forum

Modesto voters will get their first chance Monday to see the two hopefuls in the mayoral runoff election talking about the issues in a candidate forum.

The League of Women Voters of Stanislaus County is holding the forum at the county library’s main branch, 1500 I St. The event is 6 to 7 p.m. in the auditorium and open to the public.

Mayor Garrad Marsh is being challenged by architect and political newcomer Ted Brandvold in the Feb. 2 runoff election. Marsh was the top vote-getter among five candidates in the Nov. 3 election with 39 percent of the vote. Brandvold was second with 30 percent. The runoff is being held because no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote.

The runoff is being conducted by mail. Ballots were mailed to the city’s roughly 91,000 registered voters a couple of weeks ago, with the ballots due no later than Feb. 2. But the county elections office is asking voters to try to get their ballots in the mail no later than Jan. 29 because it is taking the post office longer to process the ballots because they are being sent with prepaid postage. The office also reminds voters to sign their envelopes.

Both campaigns expect the race to be a nail-biter. As of Tuesday afternoon, the elections office had received about 16,000 ballots. That’s roughly 18 percent of Modesto’s registered voters. But Marsh said he expects 30,000 votes will be cast in the runoff, which would be a turnout of about 33 percent. That’s higher than the 25.9 percent turnout in the November mayor’s race.

The mail ballot gives the campaigns an opportunity to reach their voters. The campaigns can purchase from the elections office Tuesdays and Thursdays lists of those who have voted. The campaigns can then concentrate their efforts on the voters who have not sent in ballots.

Unlike the November election, which featured several candidates’ forums for the mayor’s race, this is the only one for the runoff. The Modesto Rotary Club tried to schedule a Jan. 12 forum, but Brandvold could not make it because of a previous commitment to speak at a Republican women’s club meeting on the same day. He is a Republican; Marsh is a Democrat.

Marsh, 67, is seeking his second term. He was a councilman for eight years before being elected mayor in the 2012 runoff election. He has broad support, which includes former Mayor Carol Whiteside and the Latino Community Roundtable of Stanislaus County. He has said he helped put the city’s fiscal house in order and set the stage for the city to prosper.

But he has been faulted for his communication skills, such as relying on his own counsel too much at times. For instance, he led the effort to put sales taxes increases on the November 2013 and 2015 ballots, but voters rejected them.

Brandvold, 56, is a former planning commissioner and owns Commercial Architecture. He has said voters tell him the city is economically stagnant and has not done enough to address crime, homelessness and other quality-of-life issues. He has said he would take a collaborative, consensus-building approach in solving the city’s problems.

This is his first attempt at elected office and his inexperience has shown. He can appear unsure of himself and does not always have full command of the issues.

But he has powerful support, including endorsements from the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and the Modesto Police Officers and Modesto City Fire Fighters associations. The public safety unions backed Marsh when he ran for mayor in 2011. Brandvold attends CrossPoint Community Church and has the support of friends from church, including Chuck Bryant with the Christian-based Pinnacle Forum.

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316

Related stories from Modesto Bee