Election Could ‘Shake Up’ Commerce City Council

Only a few votes separate the candidates.

By Nancy Martinez, EGP Staff Writer

A contentious election that had candidates accusing each other of spreading misleading information and engaging in dirty campaign tactics appears to have ended with two longtime Commerce city council members being ousted from office.

Councilwomen Tina Baca Del Rio and Lela Leon were trailing Wednesday in the unofficial vote count. According to the city clerk, 179 provisional votes still needed to be verified and tallied.

Elections results aren’t official until certified by the city council, according to the city clerk.

If the numbers hold, Leonard Mendoza, a school district painter, and John Soria, a law enforcement technician, and Mayor Ivan Altamirano, the third incumbent up for reelection, will fill the three seats up for grabs.

Leonard Mendoza, pictured left, currently holds the highest number of votes in the Commerce City Council race.  (EGP photo archive)

Leonard Mendoza, pictured left, currently holds the highest number of votes in the Commerce City Council race. (EGP photo archive)

Without any endorsements and self-funding his campaign, Mendoza was at the top of the vote count with 440 votes, according to the unofficial election results. Soria was in second with 437 votes, while Altamirano received 424 votes to come in third. Baca Del Rio was in fourth with 391 votes, while Leon received 343 votes.

With the totals between the 11 candidates so tight, the top three rankings could still change when the final tally is released.

But on Wednesday, Mendoza was ready to claim victory.

“I think this election spoke loud and clear that us residents wanted change, we want to take our city back from the special interests,” Mendoza told EGP. “It was important to come in first to send that message.”

Mendoza first became involved in city affairs when an I-710 Freeway expansion project threatened to displace families in 240 homes in the Ayers, Bandini and Bristow Park neighborhoods. Since then, he has publically advocated against the Union Pacific Railroad, Vernon Power Plant and the now-shuttered Exide Technologies plant as environmental justice issues.

Commerce City Council challenger John Soria with councilmember incumbents. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Commerce City Council challenger John Soria with councilmember incumbents. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Soria, who unsuccessfully ran two years ago, had the endorsement of Councilwoman Oralia Rebollo and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia. Soria did not shy away from the spotlight after his loss, convincing the city attorney and council to pursue legal action to oust one of the victors in that race, Councilmember Hugo Argumedo who had been prohibited from holding office for three years after being convicted on a corruption charge. After the three years was over, Argumedo ran to regain his seat and won.

The courts found Argumedo could remain in office, a decision that could wind up costing Commerce money if Argumedo prevails in a lawsuit against the city for its role in that effort.

Throughout the campaign, Soria accused the other candidates of engaging in personal attacks in campaign flyers filling up voters’ mailboxes. Last week, his campaign released video of two men allegedly distributing negative campaign flyers without the required Fair Political Practices Commission disclosure of the name of the committee paying for the mailers. When approached, the two men admitted to being hired by a local church.

“It is a shame to see a Christian church involved in the attack of my family and the illegal defamation of my name. This issue should be investigated by the appropriate authorities,” Soria said in a press release.

At one point, the city clerk’s office sent a letter to residents alerting them to complaints about robocalls alleged to have misleading information about the vote-by-mail process. The office cited Election Code Section 3017, which allows voters to designate someone to return their ballot to the city clerk – the city’s election official.

In a sign of urgency, the message was shared last week in an official city emergency Nixle alert.

Mendoza says he ran a clean campaign and was not behind hit pieces that included attacks on Soria, Altamirano and even a former public information officer not running for office.

Baca Del Rio, who has been on the council since 2005, was accused last year of 24 violations of the Political Reform Act, including accusations that she illegally transferred campaign funds into her personal bank account and failing to file contributions and campaign statements in a timely manner. The councilwoman reached an agreement with election regulators that reduced the number of charges and fines against her. Baca Del Rio repeatedly denied she misappropriated campaign funds.

Less than two months later, Altamirano agreed to pay a $15,500 penalty for violating five counts of the Political Reform Act over failing to timely file and disclose financial activity on campaign statements and for voting on matters the FPPC concluded he had a financial interest in. During his campaign, Altamirano repeatedly asked voters to elect him and the other two incumbents, claiming the trio has brought positive changes to the city.

“I’m sad about the potential of losing my colleagues ,but also…ready to work with everyone,” Altamirano told EGP Wednesday, adding he’s worried projects will not move forward as quickly under new leadership.

“I really don’t know what will happen, I’m leaving it in God’s hands,” he said.

Mendoza compared the city election to the 2016 presidential race, with voters electing outsiders over career politicians.

“I think we sent out a message,” he said. “If you are honest, work hard and run an informative campaign you don’t need endorsements,” he said. “Voters will see you are running for them.”

 

Print This Post Print This Post

June 8, 2017  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

Comments

Comments are intended to further discussion on the article topic. EGPNews reserves the right to not publish, edit or remove comments that contain vulgarities, foul language, personal attacks, racists, sexist, homophobic or other offensive terminology or that contain solicitations, spam, or that threaten harm of any sort. EGPNews will not approve comments that call for or applaud the death, injury or illness of any person, regardless of their public status. Questions regarding this policy should be e-mailed to service@egpnews.com.





 characters available

Copyright © 2017 Eastern Group Publications/EGPNews, Inc. ·