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Turlock prepares for first-ever district elections
Nascimento leads all candidates in campaign contributions
Turlock voters will participate in the first district elections come November, with three candidates vying for District 4, and two for District 2. - photo by Image Contributed

Five candidates will vie for two City Council seats this November in Turlock's first-ever district elections.

Gil Esquer and Jaime Franco are both seeking to represent District 2 — which encompasses the southwest area of town, including the part of downtown Turlock that is west of Golden State Boulevard. In District 4 — which includes the northwest area of town —voters can choose between incumbent council members Amy Bublak and Steven Nascimento and challenger Donald Babadalir.

This year will not only be the first time candidates are vying to represent a specific area town, it is also the first election following the City Council's adoption of a voluntary campaign contribution limit and disclosure resolution.

In June, the Turlock City Council adopted an ordinance proposed by Mayor Gary Soiseth and Council member Bill DeHart that includes a voluntary campaign contribution limit of $1,000 per donor per election cycle, disclosure of contributions of $1 or more, disclosure of the top 10 maximum donors to be placed on every Council agenda and a Pledge to Comply with the City's Code of Fair Campaign Practices.

All of the candidates, except for Esquer, have filed the campaign contribution pledges with the City Clerk, with Babadalir being the only candidate declining to participate in the voluntary contribution limit and the Pledge to Comply with the City's Code of Fair Campaign Practices.

Although Council member Nascimento was one of two dissenting votes on the voluntary campaign contribution limit ordinance, he did sign the pledge on June 29.

The same night that the Council voted 3-2 to adopt the voluntary contribution limits, the Council also considered Nascimento's TIN CUP  (Time is Now, Clean Up Politics) ordinance from 2014 and another campaign finance ordinance submitted  by former mayor Brad Bates and former council members Ron Hillberg and Mary Jackson, which was supported by Nascimento.

All three of the ordinances voted down included mandated regulations. Nascimento's original TIN CUP ordinance and one of the proposals submitted by Bates, Hillberg and Jackson would have disqualified council members from voting on matters that would financially affect major campaign contributors. The updated proposal by Bates, Hillberg, Jackson with input by Nascimento put a limit on campaign contributions of $1,000 per donor for a candidate for City Council and $2,000 for a candidate for Mayor.

A long-time proponent for campaign finance reform, Nascimento is also leading the City Council races in donations with $23,828 raised as of June 30. He has received 80 contributions with an average donation of $165. While Stephen Smith ($1,500) and Marc and LeeAnn Dias ($1,200) donated over the $1,000 voluntary limit that Nascimento agreed to, the contributions came three months before the Council adopted the pledge.

Nascimento said he started campaigning early on due to a "history of large contributions in this community."

"Support in the community has been great," he said. "I've talked to many folks and the message was clear, they like what I've done on the Council."

Bublak only started collecting campaign donations recently. On June 30 the only money her campaign declared was a $100 transfer of funds from the Amy Bublak for Council 2012 account to the current campaign. On Aug. 17, however, Bublak received four $1,000 donations from Richard Swanson, Matt Swanson, Andrea Swanson and Maria Swanson.

Bublak said she waited to start collecting donations until after the Council's discussion on campaign finance.

Babadalir has not yet filed a Campaign Disclosure Statement.

Esquer is leading in campaign contributions for the District 2 seat as of June 30, with a total of $679 received. The majority of Esquer's funds were given by two donors: Phillip Blair ($250) and William Morris ($250).

Franco had not received any campaign donations as of June 30, according to his disclosure statement.