The race in November for the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors 5th District seat will be a contest between two Tracy City Council members, and both expect voters to judge them on their strategies for dealing with a growing homeless population.
The rules for the county election on Tuesday held that a candidate would need just over 50% of the vote to win the seat outright. Tracy Mayor Robert Rickman came close, gaining 5,899 votes, accounting for 46.4% of the 12,714 votes that had been counted as of Wednesday morning.
Rickman will run against Councilwoman Rhodesia Ransom, who gained 3,246 votes (25.53%). Councilwoman Veronica Vargas came in third with 2,283 votes (17.96%), Mateo Morelos Bedolla gained 1,241 votes (9.76%) and there were 45 write-in votes (0.35%).
Rickman said he was humbled and energized by the overwhelming support from voters.
“This is just the first step and we’ll continue our issues-focused campaign, talking about the real concerns and issues facing our community and the county,” he said. “We spend the majority of our time talking to people. One-on-one with people, knocking on doors, talking to people to events, getting to know what the issues and their concerns are.”
Ransom said there were no surprises in Tuesday’s polling, and she expects to gain a larger percentage of the vote as more of the ballots that were cast on Tuesday come in.
Early returns from Tuesday night showed Rickman with a commanding lead, based on the results of the first group of mail-in ballots. He still had the most votes in the election day polling, but not by as large a margin. As of Wednesday, about 69% of Rickman’s votes had come from the mail-in ballots. About 56% of Ransom’s votes were from mail-in ballots, and she expected that votes yet to be counted from election day will trend in her favor.
“I’m really excited to be in the top two and excited about the opportunity to serve the Fifth District,” Ransom said. “I’m really just determined to bring real solutions and consensus to this community, so I’m just looking forward to moving forward.”
Both said that their discussions with people on the campaign trail convinced them that homelessness would be the big issue between now and November — and one of the biggest issues for the next San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.
The difference will be in how they approach the issue. It’s already a topic for Tracy City Council discussions, and Rickman and Ransom are usually at odds regarding the city’s strategies so far.
Since April, Ransom and Councilman Dan Arriola have led an ad-hoc committee to address the problem. A series of meetings since November has led to the creation of a draft strategic plan, which will be up for council discussion March 17.
“It’s going to be super important that we take time and opportunity to educate the voters. They’re intentionally being misled about the realities in the community, such as some of the things that have taken place to actually stall implementing solutions to homelessness, which has led to the growing encampments in our community,” Ransom said.
“Anybody who watches the meetings, and I encourage everyone to do so, they will see that I don’t believe in being contentious, but that my policies and the things that I try to move forward, there’s an intentional attempt to mischaracterize the work that I do for this community for political convenience.
“Personally, I would really hope the mayor keeps the politics out of this and just really sticks to the issues and policy. If he has a policy, bring it forward, because that’s what I do, is I bring policies forward to the community.”
Rickman said his discussions with voters on the campaign trail had given him an understanding of what the public wanted.
“What people understand is it’s not just a housing issue. It’s a substance abuse, addiction and mental health issue, and a majority of people agree with that, and that’s what they relayed to me,” he said.
He added that the public workshops held since November weren’t as accessible as the regular City Council meetings.
“We have an ad hoc committee in which only two council members have a say in anything,” he added. “A council meeting is a lot more open and transparent. You have these other meetings, but the whole council can’t participate.”
The whole council will discuss the issue March 17, during the council’s next regular meeting.
The campaign also gave candidates the opportunity to talk about jobs and transportation. Vargas made her participation on the board of directors for the Valley Link commuter rail project a cornerstone of her campaign.
Lee Neves, campaign manager for Vargas, said that while she didn’t qualify for the November election, she did bring the issue to the forefront.
“She’s been there with Valley Link from the start, and obviously she wants to continue to work with Valley Link,” Neves said. “If you look at the other candidates, they definitely started talking about it and making it a priority also. In that regard, she was successful in getting Valley Link to be a lot of people’s top priority, not just in the supervisor race but also the Assembly race, the Senate race.”
Vargas has two years left to serve on the Tracy City Council. Neves said that she hadn’t decided yet whether she would endorse either of her council colleagues in the upcoming campaign.