In a city with a population that is more than 55 percent
Hispanic, all five members of the City Council could conceivably be
Caucasian males after the Nov. 5 election.
In a city with a population that is more than 55 percent Hispanic, all five members of the City Council could conceivably be Caucasian males after the Nov. 5 election.

Councilmembers Peggy Corrales and Pauline Valdivia face re-election. As the only two Hispanics on Council, neither is a shoe-in after first terms maligned by public dissatisfaction.

Mayor Tony LoBue said Councilmembers, regardless of their demographic make-up, would represent every citizen fairly.

“Any one of those candidates is going to represent the district to the best of their ability,” LoBue said. “I don’t think there should be (voting) favoritism either way.”

Henry Sumaya, a Hispanic, is challenging Valdivia in the District 3 race, along with Randy Pfeifer. Corrales has only one challenger, Robert Scattini, in District 2.

Some Hispanic leaders – including Mickie Luna, state director for the League of United Latin American Citizens – said Hispanic Councilmembers are more familiar with needs in the Latino community. Along with others in past decades, Luna made efforts to increase chances of Hispanic representation on the Council and other local legislative bodies.

Largely because Hispanics such as Luna voiced a need, in 1992 the city outlined voting districts to curb possibilities of discrimination, City Manager George Lewis said. At the time, all five Councilmembers lived within five or six blocks of each other, Lewis said.

Luna said she “feels comfortable” with all of the Council candidates. But members of the Hispanic community, she said, would express concern if Corrales and Valdivia both lost. If that happens, she said, LULAC would hold Councilmembers responsible for fair representation

“Elected officials have a responsibility to represent all,” Luna said. “We’ll be there to hold every Councilmember accountable.”

Neither Luna nor Lewis can remember the last time the Hollister City Council was without a single Hispanic member, although Lewis said it was before 1992. Ken Duran, a Hispanic, was elected in 1992 and served until 2000, Lewis said. Other Hispanics also served in the ’90s before the elections of Corrales and Valdivia in 1998.

Henry Solorio, a Hispanic who served on the Council in the mid ’70s, said the districting efforts were a “combined effort” in San Benito County and also throughout California.

Solorio does not, however, advocate an absolute necessity for a Hispanic Councilmember. If each Councilmember follows the job description, Solorio said, the city will be just fine.

“You could have an all-white women Council and it wouldn’t matter,” Solorio said.

The possibility for an all-male Council also exists. LoBue, Brian Conroy and Tony Bruscia – all Caucasian males – will retain their seats at least until 2004 re-election bids, if each chooses to run again. All challengers this year are males.

Pfeifer does not see a problem with either all males or all whites. “No way should it matter if there are no women,” he said.

Pfeifer expressed more concern about the role race could play in the election.

“We need to move beyond voting by thinking a person of your culture can only fit your needs,” he said. “Maybe we should just let them (Corrales and Valdivia) do it again because they’re women and Hispanic.”

Pfeifer’s District 3 is 62 percent Hispanic while District 2 is 74 percent.

Voter turnout Nov. 5 is expected to be low, according to County Clerk John Hodges. Although the county does not keep demographic records for voter turnout, Luna said in recent years the Hispanic community has shown increased enthusiasm about voting.

“More Latinos than ever are registered to vote,” she said.

As of Tuesday, 6,367 of the 16,260 registered voters in Hollister – 39 percent – are Hispanic. But Hispanics comprise more than 50 percent of registered voters in Districts 2 and 3.

Corrales also advocated districting efforts more than a decade ago. She said Hispanic members of Districts 2 and 3 have felt comfortable approaching her and Valdivia with personal problems.

“I don’t know how receptive other persons are going to be in that regard,” she said.

Sumaya, a Valdivia challenger, said an all-Caucasian Council would not create a representation problem.

“The Latino community itself is not getting involved with city issues,” he said. “There is only a few of us getting involved with city issues… That’s a sad thing to say.”

Scattini said each Councilmember, regardless of ethnic background, has a duty to represent the best interests of the people.

“The bottom line is city business,” Scattini said. “Regardless if you’re male, female, Hispanic or white – we’ve got a job to do. And that’s doing city business.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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