LOS BANOS — Mayor Mike Villalta was elected to a second term Tuesday night.
Villalta won with 4,014 votes or 59 percent, while challenger Joe Sousa, who gave up his City Council seat to vie for the mayoral position, got 2,728 votes or 40.1 percent.
"It feels wonderful that the public had enough confidence in me to elect me to a second term," Villalta said.
His campaign focused on making Los Banos friendly to business. He voted to suspend regional transportation impact fees, charged to developers, while in his first term.
Sousa said that developers should pay for new construction, arguing that it would come back on residents eventually. He said he would restore relationships Villalta had ruined with county representatives and neighboring cities.
The candidates also disagreed on the funding of a county homeless effort that benefited locals. Sousa voted to contribute to the program, while Villalta led the charge to keep the $12,000 in the city's general fund.
Villalta outpaced Sousa sevenfold in campaign contributions as of the last filing deadline, Oct. 5. The incumbent brought in $21,000 to the challenger's $3,000.
Villalta said he wants to focus on bringing jobs to the area.
"I think we are moving in the right direction," Villalta said.
City Council seats
Elizabeth Stonegrove, running to keep her City Council spot, got 3,043 votes, or 29.7 percent, and retained her seat. "I look forward to serving the community of Los Banos for four more years," Stonegrove said.
The remaining seat went to Deborah Lewis, who received the most votes with 3,178, or 31 percent. "I was happy that the constituents of Los Banos have faith in me," Lewis said.
This was the retired public guardian's third attempt at a council seat. Lewis, a Los Banos resident for 23 years, said she plans to uphold her platform of attracting business and strengthening public safety.
Stonegrove and Lewis beat Steve Hammond, a pastor, and engineer Arkady Faktorovich, who received 2,197 votes and 1,780 votes, respectively.
School board seats
The Los Banos Unified School District board of trustees spots remain too close to call, and some ballot mix-ups further confuse the numbers.
For the first time, the trustees were split into districts.
Merced County Registrar of Voters Kent Christensen said he received reports Tuesday morning from voters who said they were given the wrong trustee ballots.
"We don't think the numbers will be very large," he said. "We did everything we could to correct that problem."
Christensen said poll workers were trained properly, and he didn't know why there was confusion.
As of press time Thursday, retired teacher Tommy Jones leads manufacturing engineer Thomas Higby 637 to 302 in the race for District 2.
The other district races are closer. Attorney Dominic Falasco leads incumbent Colleen Menefee by 11 votes, 569 to 558, in District 4, while retiree Carole Duffy outpaces incumbent Jack Vasquez by 55 votes, 578 to 523, in District 6.
Christensen said he does not expect to know the winners until next week. "I've got too many vote-by-mail ballots to call anything," he said.
Los Banos Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by e-mail at email@example.com.