Local Election

Elections: Merced race still close. Atwater race is tied, new numbers say

An update on ballot counts released late Wednesday shows a slight change in the razor-thin lead a Merced candidate held since election night, and an Atwater race that is now at a dead tie.

A week after Election Day, the Merced County Registrar of Voters Office released its first update to voter tallies following days of processing and verifying mail-in, provisional and other ballots.

The Merced City Council District 6 race had only been separated by five votes, with Merced County Sheriff’s Sgt. Delray Shelton leading Buhach Colony High teacher John Bliss. The separation grew slightly as Shelton has 1,820 votes to Bliss’ 1,802, a gap of 18 ballots.

In Atwater, the newly formed District 3 showed a dead even tie at 423 votes for Merced City School District employee Danny Ambriz and retiree Dan Hernandez. On election night, Hernandez held a 27-vote lead.

The even split is something of a microcosm of politics in Atwater, where two partisan sides have butted heads in the past two years.

Merced County Registrar Barbara Levey said some 6,500 mail-in and other ballots remain to be counted. Any voter or candidate can request a recount after the election is certified, she noted, but it potentially comes with a fee.

“We have a pretty good volume yet to process,” she said on Thursday. “So I think it’s premature to talk about recounts.”

For the most part, the outcomes of the other races haven’t changed:


Mayor Mike Murphy extended his lead in the bid for re-election up to 10,165. The opponent, Monica Kay Villa, nearly doubled the number of votes she received since Election Day to 4,385.

Councilmember Kevin Blake kept relatively the same distance from District 4 opponent Karla Seijas as he did in the first wave of votes. Blake’s 1,845 votes outpaced Seijas’ 1,556.

The District 2 race leaned farther toward its only candidate, Fernando Echevarria, qualified for the ballot. His 666 votes extended his lead over write-in candidate Ronnie De Anda. There were 327 write-in votes, but how many of those belonged to De Anda is unclear.


With 3,900 votes tallied for mayor-elect Paul Creighton, he maintained a significant lead over Jim Price, whose bid for re-election has garnered 1,898 votes. Creighton declared victory on election night.

Councilmember Brian Raymond (1,226 votes) won a second term in office.

Los Banos

Incumbent Mayor Mike Villalta won his fifth term in office with 5,080 votes, which is 3,000 more than business owner Nilson Gomes Filho.

Councilman Tom Faria (1,057) beat out Refugio Llamas (713), who has lost the race to Faria before in District 2. District 3 candidate Brett Jones continues his lead with 1,109 votes compared to 873 for John Cates.


In the mayoral race, Gurpal Samra (896) still outpaces Juan Aguilar Jr. (733), Alex McCabe (713) and Mario Luera (170).

Hopefuls for one of the three seats were separated by a few hundred votes, which is significant on the crowded ballot. The top three candidates were Raul Garcia with 836 votes; Gagandeep Kang with 828; and Maria Baptista Soto with 797. The fourth-place finisher was more than 215 votes behind, and the distance continued to grow for the other five candidates.

Dos Palos

Incumbent Thomas Lee Pigg led with 612 votes in the race for one of two open seats. Bookkeeper Deborah Orlando had 456, community advocate Alice Thompson garnered 435 and retiree Kuldip Mahal tallied 206 votes.


Patrick Nagy, who has been on the council since 2008, has received 636 votes, while newcomer Zachary Ramos has 362 in the bid to be mayor.

There are two seats up for election in Gustine. Rich Ford, a business owner and former mayor, has 550 votes, followed by Derek Alexander and Lynn Schultz, who have 438 and 429, respectively.