Local Election

Undecided? Here’s a cheat sheet of everything on local ballots in Merced County

A women holds a ballot inside the Merced County Registrar of Voters office in the Administration Building on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, days before Election Day.
A women holds a ballot inside the Merced County Registrar of Voters office in the Administration Building on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, days before Election Day. tmiller@mercedsunstar.com

Election Day is upon Merced County so here’s a reminder — for those undecided voters — of what’s at stake this Tuesday.

The most highly volatile elections in Merced County are the Atwater City Council races, where incumbent Mayor Jim Price faces challenger Paul Creighton, a member of the council.

The two candidates have butted heads over the past two years on the highest paying jobs in the city: city attorney, city manager and chief of police.

Creighton has had support from the majority of the council, but that could change depending on Tuesday’s winners. Councilmember Brian Raymond, who has voted along with Creighton on the high-profile hires, faces opponent Don Hyler III in the District 4 election.

District 3 candidates Danny Ambriz and Dan Hernandez face off. Hernandez has been openly critical of Atwater City Attorney Doug White, as well as the decision to place Police Chief Samuel Joseph on paid leave.

Atwater politics has been particularly nasty with both sides of the divided council accusing each other of legal and ethical violations and name calling.

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The city will also ask voters if they want to tax marijuana up to 15 percent with Measure A. Measure B would make the city clerk, which is elected, into an appointed position.

Then there’s Measure C, which would increase the city’s hotel tax from 8 percent to 10 percent. Measure E authorizes Atwater Elementary School District to issue $20 million in bonds, and hike up property taxes, to raise money to build a new school, improve facilities and improve student safety.

CW Pops Concert 20
The top of the theatre tower shot from a second story theatre exit on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. Christopher Winterfeldt Merced Sun-Star


In the largest city in the county, the elections are much more civil. Merced Mayor Mike Murphy faces Monica Kay Villa, a homeless woman and the underdog.

The city’s northernmost district, District 6, sees high school teacher John Bliss facing Merced County Sheriff’s Sgt. Delray Shelton. While District 4 has drawn candidates in UC Merced employee Karla Seijas and Merced County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kevin Blake, who is already on the council.

The newly drawn District 2 has two newcomers. Fernando Echevarria, who ran an unsuccessful race in Atwater in 2014, faces first-time candidate Ronnie De Anda in the south Merced district.

Children play on the statues prior to the movie during the showing of The Goonies at Movie Night in the Park on Friday night (Aug. 22, 2014) at Henry Miller Plaza in downtown Los Banos. dwitte@losbanosenterprise.com

Los Banos

The Westside city of Los Banos has multiple longtime elected leaders seeking another term. Incumbent Mayor Mike Villalta seeks his fifth term this election, facing business owner Nilson Gomes Filho and John Jeremiah.

Also on the council for several years, Councilman Tom Faria faces Refugio Llamas, who has lost the race to Faria before in District 2. District three drew candidates in John Cates and Brett Jones, both of whom are on the Planning Commission.

Los Banos leaders have asked voters to pass a half-cent sales tax through Measure H to benefit public safety, neighborhood services and fiscal stability.

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The Livingston Police Station in Livingston, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. Police found a man who had been missing about three years. Andrew Kuhn akuhn@mercedsunstar.com


The city of Livingston has the most crowded ballot with four candidates seeking the mayor’s seat and nine people vying for three council seats.

Three sitting councilmembers — Juan Aguilar Jr., Alex McCabe and Gurpal Samra — are facing off for the open mayor’s seat, as is retiree Mario Luera. Incumbent Mayor Jim Soria did not seek re-election.

Hopefuls for one of the three seats are Jay Abrams, a retired correctional officer; Jason Roth, a planning commissioner; Gagandeep Kang, a truck driver; Mucio Vera Jr., a truck driver; Elias Jesus Maldonado III, who is in the military; Garry Gurpreet Singh, an office consultant; Raul Garcia, a deputy; Roberto Godinez, a technician; and Maria Baptista Soto, an educator.

Dos Palos

The city council of Dos Palos has two open seats this November.

Incumbent Thomas Lee Pigg faces three challengers: community advocate Alice Thompson, retiree Kuldip Mahal and bookkeeper Deborah Orlando.


Newcomer Zachary Ramos faces Patrick Nagy, who has been on the council since 2008, for the mayoral seat in Gustine. Mel Oliveira did not file to seek re-election.

Derek Alexander, a food quality manager; Rich Ford, a business owner and former mayor; and Lynn Schultz, a retiree, are looking to be on the council.

In Gustine, the mayor is elected for two years. If Measure D passes, the term will extend to four years.