Local Election

Big night for Merced incumbents. One council race separated by 5 votes

Councilmember Kevin Blake, a Merced County Sheriff’s sergeant, looks at the election results one a big screen TV in Merced on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. He’s running for District 4.
Councilmember Kevin Blake, a Merced County Sheriff’s sergeant, looks at the election results one a big screen TV in Merced on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. He’s running for District 4. tmiller@mercedsunstar.com

Merced’s mayor has won the election in a landslide victory while at least one city council seat remained too close to call on Tuesday.

Mayor Mike Murphy claimed the victory with more than 70 percent of the vote on Tuesday in his race against Monica Kay Villa, a homeless woman who has run several times for elected office in the past five years.

“I’m certainly pleased with the result,” the 39-year-old said on Tuesday “It feels good to have been on for two years and to serve as mayor. It’s a good time for our city.”

A back-and-forth race saw Merced County Sheriff’s Sgt. Delray Shelton pull out in front of teacher John Bliss just before 10 p.m. After trailing early in the night, Shelton took a narrow lead that continued to shrink around midnight, 50 percent to 49.79 percent with just 5 votes separating the candidates in the race for the District 6 seat.

Attempts to reach Shelton and Bliss late Tuesday were unsuccessful.

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Candidate Delray Shelton, left, a Merced County Sheriff’s sergeant, speaks with supporters in Merced on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. He’s running for District 4. Thaddeus Miller tmiller@mercedsunstar.com

Councilmember Kevin Blake claimed a second term on the council with 56.3 percent of the vote for District 4. The Merced County Sheriff’s sergeant outpaced the 43.6 percent collected by UC Merced employee Karla Seijas.

“I think that (voters) are happy with the direction of the city and my work on the city council the past five years,” the 38-year-old said.

Blake pointed to the many projects being built or refurbished in downtown Merced as examples of an improving economy, noting the city has to push to add housing in a place with a vacancy rate of 1 percent.

Blake and Murphy - both under the age of 40 - make up the elder statesmen when it comes to political experience on a seven-person council with five members having served no more than two years. “Institutional knowledge is important,” Blake said. “Having seen how we got to where we are in the past five years is important.”

Murphy said the election was a clear sign from voters that they believe Merced is a city on the rise, his catchphrase for the past few years.

AK UC Building Lighting Ceremony 12
Merced Mayor Mike Murphy speaks during a building lighting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the first three buildings of the Merced 2020 Project, on the UC Merced campus in Merced, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. Andrew Kuhn akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

“Mercedians are seeing that Merced is a city on the rise. There are very tangible things that indicate that, and it’s the intangible,” he said. “People are feeling good about the direction of our city and the leadership of our city.”

“Notwithstanding, we have challenges and every city does,” he said. “We’re facing those challenges head-on.”

The District 2 race was over before it started with only one candidate, Fernando Echevarria, qualified for the ballot. His votes outpaced write-in candidate Ronnie De Anda at 64.8 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Echevarria declared victory about 11 p.m.

“I’m humbled by the responsibilities that lay ahead of me,” the 56-year-old said. “I’m anxious to roll up my sleeves and get started.”

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