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City Council candidates turn to social media to reach voters
city council election
While many candidates have turned to social media to reach voters during the pandemic, campaign signs remain an election standard and can be seen around Turlock (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

As the races for open Turlock City Council seats swing into the final weeks before election day, two candidates are far out-spending their opponents in order to reach potential voters.

There are two open seats on the Turlock City Council, representing District 2 (southeast Turlock) and District 4 (northeast Turlock). Voters will have three candidates to choose from in the District 2 race — incumbent Gil Esquer and challengers Rebecka Monez and Ruben Wegner.

Current District 4 Councilmember Becky Arellano chose not to run for the seat she was appointed to in January 2019. Hoping to fill the District 4 seat are Pam Franco and Robert Puffer.

With the coronavirus pandemic and resulting restrictions on public gatherings putting a damper on rallies and door-to-door campaigning, candidates are putting their resources into using a mix of social media and old-fashioned mailings to reach out to voters.

District 2 candidate Monez and District 4 candidate Franco are the only candidates who have filed campaign expenses with the City Clerk as of yet. Monez has reported to have spent over $11,000 on her campaign, while Franco has spent over $5,000.

Both Franco and Monez have turned to social media to get their respective messages out to voters through a series of videos and informational posts.

“Let’s face it, the City Council isn’t doing the things that are in the best interest of Turlock right now. The Council needs to prioritize. It needs to work as a team and it needs to get the job done. There’s a lot of work to be done,” Franco said in a video posted on her campaign Facebook page on Sept. 15.

Franco goes on to list her priorities: Fully funding the police and fire departments, fixing the roads, bringing new businesses to Turlock and supporting existing businesses, and working together as a team with Council members, staff and the community.

Monez uses her campaign Facebook page to offer information about issues such as street lights and Columbia Pool, among others.

“Most people don't realize it, but the reality is that street lights are absolutely critical for our safety. Did you know that only 25% of drivers travel at night (7 PM - 8 AM), yet that small percentage makes up 40% of fatal and serious injuries? Street lights allow possible obstructions and hazards to be seen with enough time for drivers to avoid them. And not only drivers but pedestrians and riders as well…Since safety is the primary purpose of our street lights, I want to ask all of my West Side neighbors, do you feel safe with the number of street lights in your neighborhood? In the last four years, there hasn't been a single street light added to The West Side - we need to fix this problem,” reads an Oct. 15 post on Monez’s Facebook page.

The two candidates are also spending money on traditional campaign literature and mailings to the tune of $3,159 for Franco and $4,896 for Monez.

The three other candidates have not filed any campaign expenditures with the City Clerk, however, yard signs for all the Council candidates can be seen around Turlock and residents told the Journal they have received phone calls in support of Council candidates.

While last minute campaign pushes have been critical to past elections, this year it may not make much of an impact as many voters have already cast their ballots.

Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters Donna Linder confirmed on Oct. 15 that her office had already received approximately 37,900 ballots via the U.S. Postal Service.

For the first time ever, all registered voters in Stanislaus County will receive their ballot in the mail for the upcoming election on Nov. 3 following legislation signed in June by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Assembly Bill 860 requires all California counties to send a ballot to eligible voters in advance of the general election.

While every registered voter in Stanislaus County will receive a postage-paid ballot in their mailboxes this year, they do not have to turn it in by using the postal system. In an upgrade from the four satellite offices set up during the March primary election, there will be one voting center for every 10,000 voters where those who don’t want to send in their ballots can drop them off. Voters can also receive device or language assistance at these locations, or replace a misplaced ballot.

Satellite office locations in Turlock include the Assyrian American Civic Club (2618 N Golden State Blvd.), Stanislaus County Fairgrounds (900 N Broadway Bldg. E7), Ten Pin Fun Center (3700 Countryside Dr.) and Turlock CSA Epic Center (275 3rd St.). In Denair, a satellite office will be located at the Denair Community Center (3850 N. Gratton Rd.) and Keyes residents can visit a satellite office at the Keyes Community Center (5506 Jennie Ave.).

Satellite offices will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3.

In addition, the County has worked with a variety of locations to allow for indoor, outdoor and curbside drop boxes where ballots can also be placed. These drop boxes will be in plain sight of the business where they are located and contain bags that are sealed when the drop box is opened by elections staff.

In Turlock, indoor ballot drop boxes will be located at Turlock City Hall (156 S Broadway), Turlock CSA South County Service Center (1310 W Main St.), Save Mart (2595 Geer Rd.) and FoodMaxx (1845 Countryside Dr.). There are no indoor or outdoor drop boxes in Keyes or Denair, nor are there outdoor drop boxes in Turlock. There are a couple of curbside ballot drop off locations in Turlock, however, at Stanislaus State (1 University Circle) and the Turlock Silvercrest Senior Residence (865 Lander Ave.).

Curbside ballot drop-off locations will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 2 and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3.