Money and incumbency normally win elections, but the 2022 General Election was a mixed bag.
While Visalia’s four city council races kept the status quo in tact, Exeter, Hanford and Tulare Local Healthcare District voters decided to make some changes — this happened on the national scene, also, with traditionally Republican and Democrat seats flipping.
And the most expensive proposition campaign in the history of the state of California, Proposition 27 that would have legalized online gambling, went down in stunning defeat.
Hanford City Council
There were three Hanford City Council seats up for election and the two incumbents, Council members Francisco Ramirez and Amanda Saltray, suffered surprising losses.
In an October 21 Valley Voice article, Factions overshadow Hanford City Council race, questions about the Libertarian Party’s funding the two candidates’ campaigns came under scrutiny.
“My district knows me,” said Ramirez. “I don’t think the Libertarian issue had anything to do with my loss at all.”
Ramirez lost to former Hanford Mayor Lou Martinez 48% to 52%, with only 51 votes dividing them.
Ramirez felt that it was a “kick the incumbents out” type of election citing State Senator’s Melissa Hurtado’s loss against newcomer Dave Shepard and the Hanford races.
But he did acknowledge that many incumbents also retained their seats, such as Kings County Supervisor Joe Neves, Tulare County Supervisor Eddie Valero, and the Visalia City Council incumbents, making the election results hard to explain.
Ramirez also pointed out that he fares better when more people vote.
The turnout for his district, Area D, was only 32% while the turn out for Saltray’s district Area A, was 55%, another election fact that was hard to explain.
In 2018 Ramirez lost a recall vote when only 384 people voted in a strangely timed January election. But later that year, in the November General Election with a high voter turnout, he won back his seat against then candidate Dianne Sharp.
Ramirez said he sent out mailers but didn’t put in the required effort needed for a campaign.
“I was already exhausted,” said Ramirez. “It’s been nonstop for me for seven years. Honestly losing was a blessing in disguise. I’m looking forward to a break.”
“I wish Lou the best of luck,” said Ramirez.
Saltray suffered the worst loss, only receiving 29.6% of the vote to challenger Travis Paden’s 70.4%.
It wasn’t the first time they had faced off against each other.
In June of 2021 Paden and Saltray were the top two candidates out of 11 to be appointed to a seat being vacated by former Councilmember John Draxler. Saltray’s lack of experience compared to the other finalists raised questions as to why she was appointed. Paden raised suspicions that the decision to appoint Saltray was predetermined before the interviews began.
For Hanford City Council’s open seat vacated by council member Art Brieno, candidate Cheyne Strawn lost to Mark Kairis 47% to 53%. Both candidates had raised comparable amounts of money.
Visalia City Council
There were two surprises with the Visalia City Council race.
First was the fact that that there even was an election. No one bothered to challenge Council members Brent Taylor or the late Phil Cox in the 2020 General Election. As a result, the election was canceled and the two council members re-appointed.
This year four seats were up for reelection, and all were contested by two or three candidates each, making for a slate of ten contenders.
All the incumbents — Councilmembers Liz Wynn, Brian Poochigian and Steve Nelsen — easily retained their seats.
The surprise was the modestly funded Emmanuel Soto who won, with a comfortable margin, an open seat being vacated by Councilmember Greg Collins.
Soto’s challengers were Marie Line-Labee, who raised a respectable $11,000, and Robert Ainley, who raised over $50,000. Ainley also had name recognition as one of the developers of the Darling Hotel and was supported by Visalia’s establishment.
Soto only raised $5,000, but managed to make his funds stretch, sending out two mailers and knocking on almost every door.
Voters in his district seemed motivated to change the composition of what has been an exclusively white council.
The final count was Soto winning with 50%, Ainley, 35% and Line Labee 15%.
Exeter City Council
With only one contested city council race in the last six years, Exeter was excited to be able to vote for their representative instead of have their representative simply appointed.
On election night, November 8, Exeter City Council was having its regular meeting where the Exeter Police Department and their supporters showed up en masse to express their displeasure with how the city council had handled the officers’ salary negotiations.
But it was too late for incumbent Steve Garver, who severely underestimated his constituents’ concerns over public safety. Challenger Vicki Riddle beat Garver in a landslide on a public safety platform 60% to 40% respectively.
Incumbent Frankie Alves only retained his seat by six votes against Chris Clark, who hardly did any campaigning by his own admission.
Of the seven propositions, three passed and four were voted down.
The sports gambling propositions went down in spectacular fashion after spending a mind boggling amount of money.
Prop 26 would have legalized sports betting in casinos and lost 67% voting no and 33% voting yes.
Prop 27 would have legalized online sports betting and lost with 82.3% voting no and only 17.6 voting yes.
The campaign was the most expensive ballot measure fight in U.S. history, with the factions supporting and opposing Proposition 26 and Proposition 27 spending roughly $450 million.
Even with their decisive loss California hasn’t seen the last of Draft Kings or FanDuel, the two major gambling companies who financially backed Proposition 27. They want to get Californians on their phones and gambling and don’t kindly take no for an answer.
And given their unlimited resources it’s hard to imagine they won’t somehow spend their way to an ultimate victory.