LIVINGSTON -- Livingston's City Council race is a crowded field. Seven candidates are running for two open council seats, and two are running for mayor.
The election will be much-watched because of major decisions coming down the line -- the new master plan among them.
But what has most resonated among the five challengers and public is the need to change leadership.
"I think the community is being short-changed," said candidate Daniel Varela, about the current council.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
The council's new candidates are many and varied.
Hardeep Singh Rai is running for City Council and has lived in Livingston for more than a decade. Rai runs a truck driving school in Turlock.
If elected, he wants to improve the city's water quality and work to bring more businesses to town. But mostly he wants a City Council that will get things done. "This council has been our council for a long time," he said. "We want a change. It doesn't do anything for the city."
Rai has raised less than $1,000 for his campaign, and therefore isn't required to file a financial statement.
Martha S. Nateras, the city clerk since 2004, is running for council. She is a guidance councilor at Livingston High School and is a long-time resident. If elected, her goals include unifying the divided council, hiring a code enforcer and beautifying the city, among others.
"My first and ultimate goal would be to work toward having a united council," said Nateras. She has spent $700 of her own money on the campaign.
Margarita Aguilar, a 53-year resident of Livingston and a school teacher, is running for the council. If elected, she said she would bring accountability back to the council and help bring more businesses to the city. "I would base my decisions on facts, not opinions," she said.
Thus far she has raised $350, she said.
Eldini De Jesus is a school teacher running for City Council who has lived in Livingston for 29 years. In office she would first work to clean up the water in Livingston as well as make the council a more transparent body. "There has been issues, I think," she said of the council. "They should have handled them in another way."
She was given $100 from Marilyn Silveira, but has spent more than $1,000 of her own money.
Incumbent William Ingram, retired from the Navy, is running for his third term.
During his time on the council the city has invested in new parks and sidewalks, he said. He describes himself as a man who doesn't like backroom deals.
He has spent $832 of his own money.
Incumbent city councilman Roy Soria works for Save Mart and has been on and off the council since 1982. During his recent term, Soria said he helped the city build parks, fix streets and bring in new business.
"I've been instrumental in bringing commercial development and infrastructure into the city of Livingston," he said.
Soria has spent $476.99 of his own money in the campaign.
Long-time Livingston resident Daniel Varela has worked for Foster Farms for 17 years and is running for mayor, a position that's basically another City Council member.
Valera said he wants to bring unity to a council that's been characterized by its less-than-stellar relations with the public. As a councilman he would work to get the city moving in one direction. "I think that right now we are at a somewhat crucial situation with the general plan issue," he said.
Valera's war chest is around $600, he said.
Incumbent and current mayor Gurpal Samra claims to have a lot of experience in city government. He was elected mayor once before and has been elected to the City Council.
He lists numerous actions during the current council as his own and the council's legacy.
Roads and sidewalks have been repaired, new parks built and investments made in the fire and police departments.
In the last week or so, Samra has raised $3,000 and so far spent $2,000. He received $500 from Gallo Cattle Co., about $200 from Pacific Gas and Electric Co., $1,000 from a "friend" of his father's. He also received two $500 donations.
Councilman Frank Vierra wasn't available for comment.
Contact reporter Jonah Owen Lamb at (209)385-2484 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.