BY KRISTINA HACKER AND CHRISTOPHER CORREA
While the vast majority of Turlock voters cast their ballots by mail this year, local voting centers saw a steady stream of in-person voters on Tuesday as residents made their selections in the Mayoral and City Council District 1 and 3 races.
Incumbent Amy Bublak saw an early lead in the Turlock Mayoral race, but challenger Gil Esquer was only a few hundred votes behind as of 9:20 p.m. Tuesday night.
“I worked my whole career as a police officer to keep my record clean, so it did bother me to be attacked constantly, but I just kept my head down. I know my plan; I've been doing this long enough to know what's best for me. I just did my game and hopefully it pays off,” said Bublak, who spent election night amongst family, friends and supporters at Jura’s Pizza.
“I am cautiously optimistic, but I will be humbled as long as I'm in office and even after. I am not the title; I am the person carrying the title if I am given four more years. I've truly enjoyed the opportunity, and it's just up to God,” she continued.
“I feel like I couldn't do anything else [campaign-wise]. If it's not my time, then I enjoyed what I had.”
Bublak, who served on the Turlock City Council for 10 years before she was elected mayor in 2018, garnered 4,063 (52.34%) votes by 9:20 p.m. Tuesday to Esquer’s 3,699 votes (47.66%).
Esquer was not ready to concede just yet.
“It’s early; a lot of ballots to count,” he said. “I think we ran a pretty good campaign.”
Esquer, who served on the City Council for District 2 from 2016-2020, said this campaign was “completely different” than when he ran for the Council seat.
“I’m just a poor kid from the westside running for mayor,” he laughed.
Kevin Bixel had a significant lead (61.10%) over Chris Nichols (38.90%) in the Turlock City Council District 1 race at 9:20 p.m. Tuesday.
Despite the lead, Bixel said it was “way too early to be celebrating.”
“It’s not over til it’s over,” he said.
Bixel, a physician’s assistant, compared his fist election night jitters to having a first baby.
“We went into labor about two hours ago and it’s a big baby,” he joked.
Cassandra Abram led all candidates in the City Council District 3 race on Tuesday night with 50% of the vote, followed by Kelly Higgins with 31.21%, Ryan Taylor with 13.79% and Ramin Odisho at 5%.
“There are still votes to count, but I’m really optimistic about it. I’m proud of what we accomplished for running a positive and thoughtful campaign,” Abram said.
Higgins spent election night awaiting results along with mayoral candidate Bublak and Turlock Unified School Board candidates Jeff Cortinas and Paola Maldonado-Padilla at Jura’s.
“The support has been amazing and tonight has been amazing... Being here tonight, the atmosphere is so positive, and whether I win or lose, I want to meet people and be more involved. I wasn't involved before except with my church, my son's school, and now I'm involved in my community and I'm enjoying it and that's what I want to continue to do,” she said.