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Council candidates focus on voter connection in final weeks
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During each election there are two races: the pursuit of votes and the quest for campaign donations. While local voters cannot yet know who will prove triumphant on Nov. 4, the recent release of local candidates' preelection statements are indicative of their support within the community.

Among the City Council candidates, incumbent Forrest White is leading with contributions exceeding $6,000 followed by fellow incumbent Bill DeHart with $5,250, Matthew Jacob with $4,225, Donald Babadalir with $2,650 and Sergio Alvarado who has yet to receive monetary contributions.

All of the candidates except for Babadalir and the Turlock Firefighters Political Action Committee turned in their preelection statements on time. According to the City Clerk Kellie Weaver, there will be a letter mailed and a fine of $10 for each day late.

While the council candidates have used similar campaign tactics such as speaking at community organizations and walking precincts, the argument of whether the council election playing field is level is up for debate with candidates including incumbents and newcomers and diversity in age as well as experience. According to current council member Forrest White, there are advantages to each position.

 “You do have name recognition as an incumbent but sometimes, especially at the national level, incumbents can be vilified,” explained White. “My feeling is if someone has good ideas it won’t matter whether you are in your 20s or 30s or you 60s. It doesn’t make a difference.”

While White stated that his pursuit of a second term on the council is his form of civic contribution, his intention to make a difference in Turlock is shared by his challengers.

“The level of support the campaign has received is truly humbling. I believe it is indicative of Turlock’s readiness for change,” said Jacob.

Jacob has solicited support by speaking at service clubs, schools, and labor union meetings as well as walking door to door morning and nights noting that the local election by nature allows him to interface with voters.

“This isn’t a Presidential election, so each vote truly makes that much more of an impact on the final results,” explained Jacob.

While candidates have noted that interfacing with voters is vital to soliciting support, according to Babadalir transparency is also important. Babadalir cited his decision to utilize his own private Facebook account to connect with viewers rather than an election campaign account as a reflection of his authenticity and not a contrived campaign effort.

 “I think because I let people into my life that way they can see that I am genuine and that I genuinely want to see Turlock succeed,” explained Babadalir.

White also stated that since he has retired he has the “luxury” of being able to seamlessly blend his home life and council life into one.

“It’s all about availability,” said White.

While the council candidates have collectively raised over $15,000, what makes Turlockers actually write a check for one candidate or another? According to Babadalir that is difficult to quantify.

 “I think it’s two tiered,” said Babadalir. “Some of this support comes from my history with people and some of it is from campaign efforts.”

Babadalir noted that while he has achieved support from several professional connections as well as his Assyrian community, a significant number of voters have been “smaller donations from people who would classify themselves as blue collar workers.”

White explained that he “doesn’t knock on doors to get money.” Instead, he said it is an opportunity to introduce himself and his vision. White also has supportive staff walk precincts for him and is in favor of Measure A which will take Turlock from at-large elections to district elections if approved. White stated this will make it even easier for candidates to connect with voters, though all candidates have made efforts to do so this election.

“No amount of marketing or spending is as effective as meeting a voter face-to-face. I suppose I’m old-fashioned in the sense that I truly enjoy knocking on doors and introducing myself to as many residents as possible,” said Jacob.

As far as signs are concerned Jacob said that they help build awareness and serve to motivate voter turn-out.  However, according to Babadalir they are also an opportunity for foul play as he recently filed a police report after several of his signs were tampered with.

While DeHart has the support of both the Police and Firefighters Political Action Committees, a sign of his campaign efforts. Council candidate Alvarado has yet to receive any monetary contributions though he said last month that this is indicative of his “grassroots campaigning.”

Mayoral candidates Gary Soiseth and Mike Brem have also been soliciting support in the community and have raised the most monetary contributions with $45,610 and $43,925.97 earned respectively.

The next step for candidates is to turn in their second preelection statements on Oct. 23 which will detail the funds each candidate received between the dates of Oct. 1 and Oct. 18.