A slate of candidates aligned with Wapato Mayor Dora Alvarez-Roa didn’t make it past Tuesday’s primary, as voters expressed dissatisfaction with City Hall.
While ballots are still being counted, and some races are few votes apart, candidates aligned against current city leaders fared better than those in support of them.
Wapato’s city government has been through rocky times. The city faces multiple lawsuits and was the subject of a state Auditor’s Office report in May that found nepotism policy, ethics and open meetings act violations and a decline in the city’s financial stability.
Former mayor Juan Orozco resigned as city administrator on July 19 filed against him by the state attorney general, alleging the city violated the state’s Open Public Meetings Act and Orozco used his political position to enrich himself. That lawsuit is still pending against Alvarez-Roa, the council and city.
Alvarez-Roa, who was appointed mayor in September, named Orozco to the newly created city administrator’s role with a $95,000 annual salary.
Alvarez-Roa did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment about the election.
Campaign signs in the community showed a political split, with some candidates lining up behind Alvarez-Roa and others opposing her and Orozco.
Council member Keith Workman, a vocal Orozco critic, led the vote total for mayor. JC Wofford, also promoted as an alternative to Alvarez-Roa, came in second. Alvarez-Roa and Brinda Quintanilla-Bautista, an appointed council member, trailed in the six-way mayor’s race.
The top two candidates advance to the general election Nov. 5. The mayor and current council will remain in office through December.
Five council positions and 19 candidates appeared on the primary ballot. Six seats and 12 candidates will appear on the November ballot.
The large number of open seats is because most of the current council members were appointed, rather than elected.
Candidates who appear to be advancing to November’s general election, based on Wednesday’s updated vote count:
- Position 2: Edwin Andrade and former mayor Jesse Farias
- Position 3: Margaret Estrada. One vote separates former Councilman Frank Jaime and Doug Milne for the second slot, with Milne - a - in the lead.
- Position 5: Former councilman and Orozco critic Tony Guzman and Frances Ayres, who helped file an Open Public Meetings Act lawsuit against the city
- Position 6: Judith Owens-Canapo and Rosie Reyes,
- Position 7: Carolina Solis and Karina Lara
Candidates Joel Torres, Barbie Hilario, Irasema Gonzales Cantu, Danae Pugh and George Perea did not make it through the primary, based on unofficial results. They were advertised on a ticket with Alvarez-Roa.
Hilario was appointed in June 2018 to fill a vacancy caused when Jaime resigned. Cantu was appointed after the council ousted Guzman. Torres was appointed at an October 2018 meeting.
Former city employee Cindy Goodin, who filed a wrongful termination lawsuit and has criticized Orozco, also did not make it through the primary.
Voters in November also will decide the Position 1 race, where Councilman Chuck Stephens, who has voted against Orozco, is running against Timothy James Roa, Alvarez-Roa’s son. Races only appear on the primary ballot when there are three or more candidates.