Countdown to Nov. 8

We’re in an election year, so where are the City Council candidates?

Now that 2016 is here, we are officially in a presidential election year. And what a bizarre contest it’s turning out to be. That’s especially true when it comes to the Republican candidates. Everyone’s a walking sound bite. Nobody seems authentic. The phoniness is comical at times. What’s not funny is how hawkish most of them are. It’s frightening.

Then there’s Hillary. Meh. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who seems genuine. Sanders has been talking about the same issues—important ones—for decades. He voted against invading Iraq. He’s not taking money from special interests. There are a lot of things to like about him.

But let’s talk Chico politics and the countdown to whether the conservatives on the City Council will keep their majority. That seems likely since three of the four seats up for grabs are held by lefties. As you’ll see in our annual Whom to Watch issue, we’ve profiled incumbents Sean Morgan and Randall Stone, the only people thus far to announce their candidacies.

Both men are now in the twilight of their first terms. They came in during what’s been described as “Chico’s darkest days,” financially speaking, back in 2012. Now that the coffers are flush, I suppose they want to decide how the money gets spent. Let’s hope infrastructure gets some attention. This town is quickly becoming what I like to call “pothole city” and it’s only going to get worse if El Niño is as strong as predicted. The city also needs a rainy day account (aka emergency reserves).

Considering conservative Morgan and progressive Stone are campaigning in earnest, it’s surprising nobody else has jumped into the race. This newspaper hasn’t heard a peep out of Councilwoman Ann Schwab. She’s by far the veteran of the group, now nearing the end of her third term on the panel. And Tami Ritter, who was sworn in with Morgan and Stone, hasn’t announced whether she wants to retain her seat. Neither Schwab nor Ritter is profiled in this issue, but they both are people to watch in the coming months.

It will be interesting to see if anyone who ran unsuccessfully in 2014 will give it another go this year. Former Mayor Scott Gruendl is out—he’s moved to the Bay Area. I haven’t seen any movement on the Facebook pages Forough Molina and Lupe Arim-Law set up for their respective campaigns that year. Ditto for Rodney Willis. In Chico, if big money doesn’t buy a candidate a seat, repetition seems to be the key. Mayor Mark Sorensen can attest to that. It took him three campaigns. First-term Councilman Andrew Coolidge got elected on his second attempt.

This week, I checked in on the old website for Joe Montes, another conservative. It’s offline. Montes is the former administrative law judge from Washington who intended to run in 2014. He was ready to begin campaigning when somebody—presumably a local establishment Republican—asked him to back out of the race. Montes acquiesced. That’s too bad considering the conservative sweep included two newbies who’ve been less than impressive.

Montes probably would’ve earned a seat, edging out third-place finisher Reanette Fillmer. This has its upsides and downsides. On the one hand, he might have elevated the discussion at the dais. On the other hand, I’d have fewer gaffes to write about.