Small-town mayoral race is a kick

Buying a mayorship is OK in Los Molinos

Kevin Benson Sr.—aka Captain America—gets ready to take down the competition in his bid for the mayoral seat in Los Molinos.

Kevin Benson Sr.—aka Captain America—gets ready to take down the competition in his bid for the mayoral seat in Los Molinos.

Photo By vic cantu

Sabrina Fritz, a pharmacy technician, is running for mayor of Los Molinos. At a recent “Meet Your Candidates” night at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall in this small Tehama County community, she announced her campaign jingle: “My name is Sabrina, last name Fritz, vote for me and I’ll show you my,” and, raising her arms, she exclaimed, “pits!”

Los Molinos—population 2,002—isn’t incorporated, so the mayor’s post is purely honorary and the campaigning is good-humored. Votes don’t win it—fundraising does. “It’s the best mayor money can buy,” Pastor Mike Druey said.

About 50 people attended the “Meet Your Candidates” dinner Saturday night (May 21). As it progressed, a silent video of past years’ events played continuously on a wall.

The title of mayor is given to the candidate who raises the most money for two annual Fourth of July events: the Independence Day Parade, which has more than 100 entries, and Play Day in the Park, a celebration at Mill Creek Park with games, music and food. The money pays for liability insurance, permits and publicity for the events, which are co-sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the VFW Post 3909.

“The mayor doesn’t really do anything, except get a front-row seat during the parade and a year’s membership in the Chamber of Commerce,” said Druey. He went on to explain how the parade is unique because it is the only one in California that blocks a state highway.

“We’ve been doing it for 44 years, and if we stop we won’t be given that highway permit again,” he said, referring to the mile-long route that includes a section of Highway 99.

While the evening remained lighthearted, it was given some semblance of official politics by the presence of state Sen. Doug LaMalfa. “I always have fun at Los Molinos events, and was even grand marshal in their parade once,” he said.

The candidates, Fritz, Jenna Gilardi, Juliana Scifo, Kevin Benson Sr. and Rick Singer, will hold a variety of fundraisers over the next five weeks (the winner will be announced the week before the parade). For example, Scifo, a bartender and cook, will hold a luau and roast a 150-pound pig in mid-June. Gilardi’s fundraising highlight will be a rodeo featuring steer roping.

The night’s most colorful candidate was Benson, commander of the American Legion in Red Bluff. He showed his patriotism by appearing as Captain America (of Marvel Comics fame), dressed in full uniform, with mask and shield.

“I instruct school kids on the value of veterans,” he said. “One year, a teacher said I was so patriotic I was like Captain America.”

The Vietnam veteran will hold softball and horseshoe tournaments and a barbecue. He has an advantage in his campaign manager, Kenny Brewer, who last year became the youngest mayor in Los Molinos history by taking the honor at the tender age of 18.

Benson’s patriotism is also expressed by his special arrangement to have nearly half of the funds his campaign takes in pay for care packages for 10 Northern California members of the National Guard who are currently serving in an engineering unit on the front lines of Afghanistan, repairing roads damaged by insurgent bombs.

The most elaborate fundraiser may belong to Singer. His 130-mile Mayor’s Benefit Poker Run on June 4 has proven increasingly popular in his past two unsuccessful mayoral bids. It features dozens of motorcycles, autos and classic cars traveling in procession between refreshment stops, where one playing card is dealt to each contestant. At the end, winners of the poker game receive prizes such as $500 cash during a celebration at the Lassen Steak House that includes dinner, music and overnight camping.

The Fourth of July parade and play day are very special to Fritz, a wife and mother of two daughters. She has attended nearly every one during her life. In fact, she says her devotion to it sometimes upsets her husband, because she doesn’t want to get out of town over the Fourth.

“I have always absolutely loved these events, and now it’s my turn to give back to the community,” she said.