Atwater mayoral candidate Paul Creighton declared victory just an hour after election results began to roll in on the highly contested race on Tuesday.
The one-term councilman stood on a chair inside Isabella’s Bar and Grill in Atwater to thank his supporters, who in turn chanted “fix City Hall” over and over.
The 50-year-old said his lead, which accounted for about 68 percent of the vote by 10:30 p.m., was a resounding approval from residents tired of nasty politics that plague council meetings and the daily workings of the city.
“The citizens of Atwater have spoken tonight. They like what we’re doing,” he said on Tuesday. “The direction we’re taking the city is the direction they want to go. We got to finish what we started.”
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Efforts to reach Mayor Jim Price for comment were unsuccessful.
Creighton said his first effort as mayor will be to unite the often feuding council. Atwater politics has been particularly nasty in the past two years with two sides of the divided council accusing each other of legal and ethical violations.
Also at stake in Atwater is the employment of Police Chief Samuel Joseph, who was placed on leave back in January. Creighton supported the decision while Price did not. The two have also fallen on opposite sides in the hiring of City Attorney Doug White and City Manager Lori Waterman, both of which were supported by Creighton.
Creighton said he hopes residents who didn’t vote for him continue to be involved in city politics. “Just because you didn’t vote for me doesn’t make you irrelevant,” he said. “Everyone’s voice is important.”
Atwater certainly faces many challenges as the city has struggled with its finances with a $2.5 million general fund debt and millions more in unfunded liabilities. The city has recently loosened its marijuana dispensary laws as one of many efforts to pay down debt.
Councilman Brian Raymond declared victory at about 11:30 p.m. with 100 percent of precincts reporting. He received 64.7 percent of the vote.
“I feel overwhelmed and thankful to the residents of District 4 for believing in what we’ve been doing and want us to continue what we started,” he said.
The 37-year-old said his opponent Don Hyler III conceded Tuesday night, adding Hyler ran a clean campaign during a nasty political time in Atwater.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that you’re going to see a more unified council going forward, and one that’s not worried about petty backbiting but worried about seeing the city move forward for the residents,” he said.
District 3 candidates Danny Ambriz (47.19 percent) and Dan Hernandez (52.09 percent) were not separated by much, only 27 votes as of 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Hernandez has been openly critical of the Atwater city attorney and the decision to put Joseph on paid leave.