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City Council elections heat up
Esquer throws hat in ring for District 2
City Council elections pic1
Turlock City Council District 2 candidate Gil Esquer shakes hands with supporter Alan Julien during a campaign rally outside of Minerva's Furniture on Friday. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

Although November is still five months away, Turlock's first-ever by district election is already drawing a number of candidates. Gil Esquer announced his intention to run for District 2 on Friday amidst a group of supporters in downtown Turlock.

"This is going to be a historic election this year. I am District 2; I am Main Street...It's time to have our District have a voice in what's going on with the City," said Esquer.

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 includes the part of town west of Golden State Boulevard from Fulkerth in the north to the city boundary in the south, and includes half of downtown Turlock.

Esquer said not since Marty Yerby had the westside of town been represented on the City Council.

"I'm running because District 2 is the foundation of the city. The downtown revitalization was great, but we need to expand revitalization [into the westside]," he said.

Esquer said the biggest issues facing District 2 are roads and safety.

"I think our District needs to feel as safe as any of the districts. We need to step up Neighborhood Watches and encourage respect and tolerance," he said.

Esquer said he's not sure where he stands on the proposed countywide half cent sales tax for road projects, but when it comes to campaign finance he thinks "contributions should be transparent."

Alan Julien was among those gathered in front of Minerva's Furniture on Market Street on Friday to hear Esquer's candidacy announcement.

"I came out to support Gil because he's honest, cares about the people in the District and he's not a lifelong politician," said Julien.

Esquer retired from Tri Valley Growers after 33 years and for the past 13 years has worked as a notary public out of his wife's business, Taxes Plus. Over the years, he's also been very active as a volunteer with the Turlock Jaycees, Knights of Columbus and Sacred Heart Church. Esquer is a Turlock High and Modesto Junior College graduate.

In April, Jaime Franco announced he would be running for the District 2 seat.

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 in April. "...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.

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 includes two incumbent Council members, Steven Nascimento and Amy Bublak, along with challenger Donald Babadalir.

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.

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.

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.

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.