Unofficial results for the November 5 election in the cities of Bell Gardens and Montebello and the Montebello Unified School District were less about who was elected and more about who was not reelected after three incumbents lost their seats to new challengers.
The most significant change was seen in the MUSD school board where, according to unofficial election results, challengers Lani Cupchoy and Edgar Cisneros garnered enough votes to remove longtime board member Gerri Guzman and two-year appointee Paul Montoya.
As of Wednesday morning, Cupchoy, who was very involved in the effort that opened student gardens at several MUSD schools, was leading Guzman by 51 votes. Guzman is a former Montebello treasurer and currently works as an aid to Assemblywoman Christina Garcia. Cisneros, an aid to Supervisor Gloria Molina, was ahead of Montoya, a technology engineer, by more than 400 votes. There is still a large number of Vote by Mail and provisional ballots to be counted, according to the County Registrar-Recorder.
Mailed hit pieces near the end of the election were tough to overcome, veteran board member Guzman told EGP Wednesday. She was particularly incensed about a piece that included her mug shot taken during a 2012 arrest for domestic violence incident, which resulted in no charges against her and where she claims she was actually the victim.
The result was unfortunate, she said. “I refused to swing back the mud and do a hit piece, that’s not what I do she said.”
Cupchoy and Cisneros, that’s their kind of politics, she said, adding she has no plans as of now to ask for a recount. Both Cupchoy and Cisneros had the endorsement of the Montebello teachers union.
EGP’s calls to Cupchoy for comment were not returned.
In the first election, Chacon received the highest number of votes, 3,585 (23.24%) votes while Cardenas received 3,486 (22.6%) votes, enough to get them elected. The third seat up for grabs was a close call, Community Educator/Historian Lani Cupchoy received 2,999 (19.44%) votes, just 51 votes more than longtime, outspoken board member Gerri Guzman who received 2,948 (19.11%) votes. Challengers Frank T. Morales and Sonia Saucillo-Valencia received 1,046 (6.78%) and 1,361 (8.82%) votes respectively.
In the second election challenger Edgar Cisneros, a deputy aid to County Supervisor Gloria Molina, was elected with 2,957 (46.47%) votes, receiving enough votes to win against Montoya who received only 2,548 (40.04%) votes. Challenger C.J. Salgado received 858 (13.48%) votes.
Benjamin Cardenas, who was up for election for the first time and earned the second highest number of votes behind Chacon, told EGP he is anxious to see where his votes came from, noting that he did not take any area for granted and worked hard to make sure he knocked on door across the district. He said he did not see the negative campaign pieces, and concentrated his energies on running a clean campaign that focused on his strengths and what he has to offer the district.
Like him, Cardenas says the new board members will face a learning curve, but he is looking forward to see what new dynamic projects they will bring to the district. He says he will continue to focus on bringing resources to the district and efforts to repurpose the Laguna Nueva campus for an innovative student-learning environment.
Bell Gardens City Council
According to the unofficial results, Bell Gardens residents reelected Mayor Daniel Crespo who received 944 (24.24%) votes and Mayor Pro Tem Priscilla Flores who won with 886 (22.75%) votes. The two ran on a slate with Jose Mendoza, a teacher and former planning commissioner, who received 870 (22.34%) votes, ousting Sergio Infanzon, who received only 597 (15.33%) votes. Of the three incumbents, Infanzon was on the council for the shortest amount of time. Challengers Jazmina Saavedra and Yvette Silva received 345 (8.86%) and 253 (6.5%) respectively.
Montebello City Council
While the two incumbents seeking reelection both won a seat on the city council, it was a first time candidate who received the highest number of votes in Tuesday’s election. Newcomer Vivian Romero, a music producer and city commissioner received the most votes, 1,819 (20.91%).
Councilman Art Barajas came in second with 1,731 (19.9%) votes, followed by Mayor Pro Tem William Molinari, who has been on the council the longest, who came in third with 1,455 (16.72%) votes. Challenger Flavio Gallarzo was a close fourth with 1,223 (14.06%) of the votes.