Despite a constituent base that's half Hispanic, there's a whole lot of white on the Merced City Council. Six of the seven members are white. Noah Lor is Hmong.
And that's part of the reason Sam Rangel changed his mind about running. When he saw his friend Richard Cervantes was also planning a campaign, he decided not to pursue his own political career just yet. After all, Cervantes was just 93 votes shy of winning a council seat during his 2009 campaign, and Rangel said he didn't want to divide the Hispanic vote. He withdrew his candidacy papers on Tuesday. "We don't have a high enough percentage of Latinos registered to vote and we might cancel each other out," he said.
Rangel is quick to point out that he doesn't believe race has much of a role on the city council, but he said it's important to have a Hispanic voice among the community's elected leaders: "There are Hispanic people who want to create change and there are not enough Hispanic voters, so I needed to do the honorable thing and back another Latino voice."
Rangel said he'll work to get out the Hispanic vote in the hopes of supporting Cervantes' campaign.
He said Cervantes, a planning commissioner with whom Rangel once worked with at Safeway Manufacturing, shares many of his campaign platform ideas, including public safety.
Rangel sounded a little disappointed that his own campaign wasn't moving forward. He talked about sweeping plans to shift Merced's negative self-image to a more positive one.
"It's time to shift Merced, to shift the mentality of fear. If we are an unskilled labor force, we need to go after the labor-intensive industries. There's nothing wrong with a hard-working town. Let's get some vocational schools here. Let's turn into a town of dreamers again."
In fact, he already had some T-shirts made with the slogan "Shift Happens."
Rangel isn't ruling out a future run for the city council or another elected position. "If Richard wins, I guess there will be an open spot on the planning commission," he said.
Author's note: This version of the blog has been changed to clarify a poor choice of words.