The photo of an unidentified Calexico man shows him holding up hand-written signs in the style of those that have been appearing around the city since July 4. The photo also links to a change.org online petition credited to Calexico Union Against Corruption. PHOTO COURTESY OF MI CALEXICO
The filing period for what could be an unprecedented election for four seats on the five-member Calexico City Council opened July 13. The period closes at 5 p.m. Aug. 7 for the Nov. 3 general election.
At stake in the city is basically the entire council, with the exception of Mayor Rosie Arreola Fernandez’s seat, which is locked down for two more years. Fernandez was elected in 2018 and her first term expires in December 2022.
Other than Fernandez’s place, the entire council is in question as three full-term, four-year seats and one short-term, two-year seat is up for grabs.
Full-term council members Bill Hodge and Lewis Pacheco, both of whom were elected in 2016, have served all four years and both have indicated they intend to run for re-election, according to past interviews with this newspaper.
Mayor Pro Tem Morris Reisen’s full-term, four-year seat is also up for election. However, Reisen was appointed by the council in February 2019 to finish out the term vacated by Jesus Escobar, who was elected to the Imperial County Board of Supervisors and took office in January 2019.
Reisen, while on the fence in the past about whether he would seek re-election, enthusiastically reiterated he would run to defend his position during an interview in late June after revealing his battle with COVID-19, which he said left him driven to continue on the council.
A wrench in the normal works is the seat now held by Camilo Garcia, which also expires in December 2020. Garcia’s appointment to the council in June and his July 1 swearing-in was a short-term remedy to fill the seat vacated by disgraced former council member David Romero, who was forced to resign his place on the dais in early June due to a guilty-plea agreement on federal public-corruption charges against he and a former political appointee, Bruno Suarez Soto.
Romero and Soto pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting $35,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent posing as an investor looking to fast-track a retail cannabis permit in the city.
Garcia, who had previously run for the council in 2018, finished near the bottom of the seven-candidate field that was led with the election of Fernandez and Romero. Garcia was selected to serve out Romero’s term after making it through a field of 15 initial candidate applications.
Garcia, before he was even sworn in July 1, told this newspaper he intended to run for the short-term seat.
The reason Garcia cannot simply ride out the full term like Reisen did is because of timing. State election codes say if an elected council member has served less than half of his or her full term, then the seat must go to election, according to Calexico City Attorney Carlos Campos.
Romero had served less than half his term, while Escobar had served more than half his term.
As of the afternoon of July 13, only two people had called Calexico City Hall to seriously inquire about the paperwork needed to run for council, City Clerk Gabriela Garcia said.
Historically, Calexico has been a politically engaged community, with City Council races often generating a minimum of about seven candidates. This year looks to be no different, and could possibly set a record as there has been some quite vocal discontent with the current city leadership that has spread like wildfire on social media and through public protests advocating for a changing of the guard.
The calls for change have come from many fronts, as well. Some appears to be an old guard that has always been among the reoccurring cast of perennial council candidates and/or candidate backers, and some appears to be a youth-led movement that has shown itself with the handwritten protest signs hung at various locations throughout the city since the July 1 ceremonial selection of Fernandez as mayor by her fellow council members.
The Calexico Chronicle attempted to contact one of those newer groups through a direct message to its Instagram account, Calexico Union Against Corruption, but as of deadline, there was no immediate response.
The nascent group is credited with a change.org petition calling for the resignation of Mayor Fernandez, which as of July 15, had more than 1,700 electronic signatures of its 2,500-signature goal. It appears the petition was started July 10.
Although not credited to any single group, there is a what is described as a “peaceful caravan” protest titled “Fuera Rosie Fernandez!” or “Out Rosie Fernandez!” planned for 5 p.m. July 17 starting at Joel Reisen Park in the 1100 block of Sapphire Street and ending at Calexico City Hall.
In other election news, the filing period also opened July 13 for a large number of races in the Nov. 3 general election, including:
Imperial County Board of Education
Imperial Community College (Imperial Valley College)