Five campaigning for two Turlock Council district seats

Drivers passing the well-traveled intersection of Monte Vista Avenue and Geer Road in Turlock are greeted by a busy array of campaign signs for causes and candidates, including the Turlock City Council race, even though the intersection lies in District 3, which is not electing a representative this year.
Drivers passing the well-traveled intersection of Monte Vista Avenue and Geer Road in Turlock are greeted by a busy array of campaign signs for causes and candidates, including the Turlock City Council race, even though the intersection lies in District 3, which is not electing a representative this year. naustin@modbee.com

Turlock’s first by-district voting for City Council will take place on Election Day. In northwest Turlock, by far the most expensive race, three familiar faces will vie for one seat, while west Turlock south of Fulkerth Road will choose between two political novices.

Residents of the city’s eastern districts will not vote in this election. Their seats will be voted on in 2018.

The League of Women Voters will host a Turlock City Council candidates forum 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the council chambers in City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.

District 4 covers northwest Turlock. On a map, the roughly boot-shaped district perches on Fulkerth Road to the south, its heel formed by Tegner Road heading north to Taylor Road, then stair-stepping down along Crowell Road to Monte Vista Avenue, east to Andre Lane, south to Tuolumne Road, east to Geer Road, and south to Almond Avenue, where the boundary runs west to Golden State Boulevard, and finally northwest to Fulkerth. The area includes Donnelly Park and neighborhoods south of the university, as well as newer subdivisions west of campus, and the Monte Vista Crossings retail triangle.

The District 4 race pits two sitting council members against each other, Steven Nascimento, 30, and Amy Bublak, 51. The two have raised $27,000 and $39,000 respectively for the contest, while the third candidate said he will spend less than $2,000. Bublak moved into the district the day she filed to run. Nascimento and the challenger, Donald Babadalir, 30, have lived there for more than a decade. Babadalir ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2014.

Asked to list top district needs, Nascimento named public safety, road improvements and establishing safe routes to school. “Our neighborhoods are too often the target of auto theft and burglary, and many parents I have spoken to are afraid to allow their children to walk or ride their bikes to school,” he said in written responses to a Bee email to all candidates.

Bublak wrote she saw crime and jobs as top concerns. If elected to the District 4 seat, she said she would use her experience as a police officer and with the Turlock Partnership Incentive Program to work on four priorities. “We need to reduce crime, create jobs, improve our economy and fix our roads,” she said in her statement.

Key challenges that Babadalir sees for the district are public safety and government accountability with fiscal responsibility. “Turlock, and specifically District 4, deserve someone who will listen to their ideas when it comes to policy setting. There is a reason it is called ‘public policy’ and not ‘private policy,’ ” he wrote.

District 2

District 2 covers southwest Turlock, bordered by Golden State Boulevard to the east and Fulkerth Road on the north. Both candidates, Jaime Franco and Gil Esquer, said they felt their neighborhoods need a strong voice at the table.

Franco, 58, said the biggest problem he sees is homelessness, in addition to neighborhood issues with illegal marijuana grows and drugs. He supports fully funding public safety and said he also wants to advocate for redevelopment on the west side of town. “I have been attending neighborhood watch meetings and admire how many citizens are determined to achieve a better community,” Franco wrote, adding his work with nonprofits in California and Mexico shows his commitment to serve.

Esquer, 66, said he sees street repairs and upgrading street lights to LED fixtures as the top priorities for his area. If elected he intends to work for a revitalization plan, infill of vacant and distressed properties, and acquisition of the California National Guard Armory to be an activity center. “It is imperative that the city feels safe and that the residents feel represented with open lines of communication,” Esquer said.

City controversies

Where the candidates differed widely was in their response to a question about the role of district council members in controversies that divide the city – for example, the contentious, months-long debate over two competing farmers markets.

In the District 2 race, Esquer said he would focus on listening and act based on what was not just legal but ethical. Franco said he understood the frustrations but wanted to be the voice of the larger community that would be affected by council decisions.

In the District 4 contest, the incumbents voted on opposing sides of the farmers markets debate.

“Diversity and differences of opinion are what make our city strong,” said Bublak. “I will always seek the input of our citizens and make decisions in the best interest of our community.”

But Nascimento criticized the panel’s handling of issues. “The City Council has gone out of its way in the past year to stir conflict and division – and it needs to stop. We need councilmembers who are willing to set personal and political alliances aside, and get back to the business of governing,” he wrote.

Challenger Babadalir said, “Good policy setting by government entails being able to communicate, to research laws and regulations, and to use facts to make a decision.” He said the farmers market issue was poorly handled by not verifying the nonprofit status of the existing market.

Campaign finances

Bublak has raised by far the most money in the campaign. Her financial filings tally $38,652 raised since July 1, including a $5,000 loan from her husband, as of Sept. 24. Major contributors include the Swanson family, with $1,000 each from Richard, Andrea, Matthew and Maria Swanson. Additional $1,000 donations are listed from a Savannah Swanson of Malibu, Mark Swanson of Turlock, and Ansley and Michael Swanson of Fullerton. Peter and Maia Cipponeri contributed $1,000 each. Expenses are listed as $10,211.

Nascimento was the only candidate with significant fundraising in the spring, raising $27,360 by June 30, including a $2,000 loan to himself, and another $2,069 through Sept. 24. Top contributions included $1,500 from Stephen Smith of S.H. Smith Farms, $1,200 from Marc & Leeann Dias of Dias Construction.

Bublak enters the final stretch of campaigning with more than $28,000 in the bank, while Nascimento lists $6,309 remaining. The third candidate for District 4, Babadalir, did not file financial paperwork and confirmed by phone he does not plan to raise or spend more than $2,000.

In the District 2 race in southwest Turlock, Franco had loaned his campaign $100 as of June 30. His only listed donor is the law offices of Nelson F. Gomez in Hughson, which contributed $1,000. Because Franco submitted a Form 460 financial filing, he is required to continue filing them through the election even if he does not reach $2,000. However, his Sept. 29 financial filing had not been submitted as of Friday afternoon, said Turlock city Clerk Kellie Weaver.

Esquer’s Sept. 24 filing shows he received $6,735 in donations and spent $4,613 as of that date. His largest contributor is himself, donating $4,545 in purchases to the campaign. Most of his donations were small, local contributions, with a $1,000 donation by Linda Murphy-Lopes and a handful of $500 listings, including former Mayor Brad Bates.

Turlock will also choose a city treasurer on Nov. 8. Bookkeeper Alex Paul Kiehl is challenging incumbent Diana Lewis for the post. Neither has signaled an intent to spend more than $2,000 in the campaign.

Nan Austin: 209-578-2339, @NanAustin

Gil Esquer

District 2, age 66

OCCUPATION: Notary public at wife’s office Taxes Plus, 15 years, retired from Tri-Valley Growers, 33 years

EDUCATION: Associate’s degree from Modesto Junior College

FAMILY: Spouse Rosa Esquer, daughter Michelle

INFO: Website www.gil4Turlock.org, Facebook @Gil4Turlock, email Gil4Turlock@gmail.com, message phone 209-648-9441

Jaime Franco

District 2, age 58

OCCUPATION: Vehicle salesman, instructional aide, recreation, marketing, farmer; numerous volunteer posts, including translator for Bay Area immigration advocates

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in political science, minor in Spanish

INFO: Phone Eriberto Franco 209-668-8944, email FrancoForTurlock@gmail.com

Donald Babadalir

District 4, age 30

OCCUPATION: Political adviser, analyst and editor, Near East Center for Strategic Engagement for two years

EDUCATION: Master’s degree in nutrition/packaging engineering, San Jose State University; bachelor’s degree in political science, California State University, Stanislaus

INFO: Facebook DonBabaladir; email donaldbabadalir@gmail.com

Amy Bublak

District 4, age 51

OCCUPATION: Retired police officer, 20-plus years in Modesto, Richmond

EDUCATION: Master’s degree in public administration, San Francisco State University; bachelor’s degree in sociology & criminal justice, California State University, Stanislaus

FAMILY: Spouse Milton Richards

INFO: Website www.amybublak.com, Facebook @AmyBublak

Steven Nascimento

District 4, age 30

OCCUPATION: Executive director, California Portuguese American Coalition; former district director for state Sen. Anthony Cannella, former district director for U.S. Rep. Dennis Cardoza

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in political science, California State University, Stanislaus

FAMILY: Spouse Alexis Nascimento; children Levi, 3, and Harvey, 1

INFO: Website www.stevennascimento.com, Facebook @StevenNasc, email NascimentoforTurlock@gmail.com, phone 209-681-4466