While November may be eight months away, candidates are already throwing their respective hats into the ring for Turlock's first-ever by-district City Council election.
In 2014, voters approved by-district elections for the four seats on the Turlock City Council, with the mayor's seat remaining an at-large election. The City of Turlock was divided into four districts with equal populations and in November residents in District 2 and 4 will have the chance to vote for their representative on the City Council.
District 2 encompasses the city's southwest quadrant and is bordered by Golden State Boulevard to the east and Fulkerth Road to the north, running to the City limits to the west and south. As of Friday, one resident of District 2 has declared his intent to run for the Council seat — Jaime Franco.
Franco, the son of migrant farmers, has been a part of the Turlock community for 40 years. He is a Turlock High grad and has a degree in political science from Stanislaus State. Franco currently works as a salesman at Price Ford in Turlock.
Franco said he decided to run for the Council seat because of the "underrepresentation of the south west" side of town.
"They're neglecting our streets, crime and education," he said. "...students aren't safe; there are a lot of shootings and gangs around here."
If elected, Franco said he'd like to help bring a resource center to District 2. He envisions a place where kids can come after school to get off the streets, adults can come for job training and to learn computer skills and where local professionals can volunteer their time while motivating young people to strive for something more.
"I want to show the possibilities to young people that there is a way to make a difference in the community," he said.
Franco has volunteered for a number of migrant education programs and as an interpreter for Catholic Charities. He is also a past president of the Latino Community Roundtable of Stanislaus County.
The race for Turlock's District 4 Council seat is already heating up. Two incumbent Council members, Steven Nascimento and Amy Bublak, along with challenger Donald Babadalir, have announced their intentions to run for the northwest Turlock seat.
District 4 starts at Almond Avenue to the south and jags north to Fulkerth Road to Tegner Road. The district runs north from Almond Avenue along Geer Road, then veers west on Tuolumne, north on Andre Lane, west on Monte Vista Avenue, and north again on Crowell Road to Taylor Road.
Nascimento has lived in what is now known as District 4 for the past 13 years. He was first elected to the Council in 2012 at the age of 26, and has since been an advocate of campaign finance reform. Along with introducing a "Tin Cup" ordinance in 2014 that would have prohibited members of the City Council from voting on issues that could financially benefit large campaign contributors — a motion that failed on a 3-2 vote —Nascimento was the only Council member to oppose the adoption of a Request for Proposals process for a downtown farmers market operator.
A lifelong resident of Turlock, Nascimento graduated from Turlock High School, and went on to earn a degree in political science from Stanislaus State. His early career was spent working in land-use planning with the City of Modesto, where he says he developed a passion for local government.
Prior to serving on the City Council Nascimento worked as a staff assistant for Congressman Dennis Cardoza, and ultimately became his District Director. Nascimento also went on to serve as the District Director for State Senator Anthony Cannella.
The son of Portuguese immigrants, Nascimento currently serves as the Executive Director of the California Portuguese American Coalition, and as a member of the board for the Center for Portuguese Studies at Stanislaus State.
“It is with great enthusiasm that I seek a second term on the Turlock City Council. As a lifelong resident of Turlock, it has been an honor to serve our community, and I welcome the opportunity to build on the success of my first term,” said Nascimento.
Vice Mayor Bublak, who just recently bought a house in the District 4 territory, has been on the City Council since 2008.
Bublak, a retired police officer, attended Stanislaus State, earning a B.A. in Sociology and Criminal Justice. She also holds a Masters in Public Administration and Urban Government. A former Student Body President at Stanislaus State, Bublak has an enduring passion for public service. Before being elected to the City Council, she served on the Turlock Planning Commission.
She is an advocate for economic development and in 2011 created the Turlock Business Partnership Incentives Program, offering $1,000 cash to small businesses which open up shop in vacant storefronts and meet certain criteria, such as submitting a business plan. In the first four years of the program, the City gave incentives to 45 businesses, which created 94 full-time jobs and 83 part-time jobs.
"I truly enjoy giving back to the community and feel like there's more left," said Bublak about her decision to seek re-election. "...it's in my heart."
When it comes to campaign contributions, Bublak said she will do the will of the Council.
"Five dollars or $5,000, it means the same to me. There's a negative connotation that we're all unethical if we take money from people...I'm not seeing it in Turlock," she said.
Challenging the two Council incumbents to the District 4 seat is Babadalir. This is not the first time Babadalir has ran for the City Council. In 2014, he sought one of the two open seats on the Council and lost to Bill DeHart and Matthew Jacob.
Babadalir has lived in the District 4 area since 2005 and said he decided to run for the Council to "represent my neighbors." He is an editor and senior political advisor for Governance and Development, Near East Center for Strategic Engagement.
Babadalir said he is currently making a list of his district's needs and concerns, but his top priorities include public safety, roads, fiscal responsibility and accountability.
It's still early in the City Council races, with the official filing period not opening until July 18 for the November election. Those interested in running for a District seat can get more information by calling City Clerk Kellie Weaver at 668-5540.