Elk Grove Candidates Make Pitches, Answer Questions During Democratic Endorsement Forum

Elk Grove South County Democratic Club members voting for candidates at the endorsement forum. 

July 11, 2018 |  

In a well-attended endorsement forum on Tuesday, July 10 hosted by the Elk Grove-South County Democratic Club, candidates seeking four different offices made their pitches and answered questions on many issues.

The Democratic candidates seeking endorsements made their cases before the 100-plus club members in attendance at the forum held at the Wilton Community Center in Wilton. Among those discussing their platforms were Elk Grove mayoral candidates Steve Ly, Tracie Stafford, and Darren Suen; Elk Grove City Council candidates, for districts 2 and 4 respectively Andres Ramos and Orlando Fuentes; and Cosumnes Community Services District candidates Jaclyn Moreno and Rod Brewer.

The forum opened with the mayoral candidates - all of whom are Democrats - explaining to members why they are running for office. A video of each of their presentations can be viewed below.

CCSD candidates Moreno and Brewer also spoke as well as Fuentes and Ramos. Fuentes is running for the Elk Grove City Council District 4 seat against incumbent and fellow Democrat Stephanie Nguyen who did not seek the club's endorsement and did not participate in the forum. Ramos is the sole candidate challenging Republican incumbent Pat Hume for the Elk Grove City Council's District 2 seat.

Along with their presentations, the candidates also participated in a question and answer session. Given the forum was a partisan affair, there were questions regarding endorsements they may have offered Republican candidates or officeholders.

When asked about endorsements of Republican candidates during this elections cycle, only Darren Suen said that he had endorsed a member of the opposing party. Before Ramos' entry into the District 2 race, Suen had endorsed his Republican city council colleague Pat Hume and later noted he also supports Democrats Stephanie Nguyen, who serves on the city council and Koi Rivers who is running for the CCSD.

Defending his action, Suen said that elected officials of all parties need to cooperate to accomplish common goals. He added that as a council member he must represent all constituents regardless of their political affiliation.

"We should be talking about how we can move forward," he added.

In another question that again isolated Suen, candidates were asked about switching to by-district voting systems for the city council and CCSD. In by-district voting, candidates are elected by voters in a geographically defined area, rather than the at-large system currently used by both entities where representatives are elected on a city or district-wide basis.

Suen was the only candidate at the forum saying he preferred the present at-large system saying it better represents the entire population of a city. While he stopped short of saying he would advocate for changing to by-district, he did say if happens, it should be after the 2020 census when the city would draw new district lines. 

Ly said that he supported by-district voting saying if there is a vacancy on the city council, having by-district voting would lower the cost of holding a special election. Since 2012 the Elk Grove City Council has filled vacancies by appointment rather than holding a special election using the rationale that a citywide special election would be expensive.

"I support it because it makes council races more competitive," Ly said in response to the question. Before being elected mayor when he served on the city council in the District 4 seat, Ly did not support by-district voting.

Stafford noted that even though Ly now supports it, criticized him for not placing a proposal to change on a city council agenda and force a vote, even though it would be defeated, for the record. Ly's council colleagues support maintenance of the current at-large system.

"I would get it on the agenda," Stafford stated. 

Ramos and Fuentes also said they would support the conversion of the city council should they win their respective seats. Fuentes, who currently serves on the CCSD with Brewer, both said they support converting the district to by-district from its current at-large form of representation. 

When asked about Elk Grove's plans for expansion via the sphere of influence process, Ly and Suen did not come right out and say they supported the annexation, but said they supported the planning aspect of the process.  This is the argument that consistently employed by their city council colleague Pat Hume.

Noting the lack of affordable housing, Suen said it was necessary to look at other options including the annexation of land south of current city limits. 

"The vice mayor [Suen] is right, it allows the city to plan," Ly said in a rare moment of agreement with his city council colleague.

Stafford, Fuentes and Ramos all said they opposed the SOI noting the city should first make use of infill opportunities. 

"We need more multi-family housing," Fuentes said. "Let's not expand outward, let's grow upward."

After hearing the presentations and answers to several questions, members voted to endorse Ly for mayor; Ramos and Fuentes for their respective city council district races; and Jaclyn Moreno and Rod Brewer for the two seats on the CCSD. Nguyen did not seek the club's endorsement, and Rivers, who completed the club's questionnaire, did not attend the forum. 

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1 comment

D.J. Blutarsky said...

I'm voting for Suen because I want my political leader to be a technocrat like Al Gore was under Clinton.

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