Downey City Council race gets crowded

DOWNEY - Campaign season is in full swing this week after the city received formal filing papers from a total of eight certified candidates who will now run for the three Downey City Council seats up for grabs this November. While prospective candidates have been slowly announcing their intentions to run throughout the summer, the last two weeks proved most exciting in particular as the city experienced a flurry of activity, with three new candidates pulling papers from the City Clerk's office, not including Councilman Luis Marquez who decided to vacate his District 5 city-wide seat in order to seek reelection in District 1.

From business owners and attorneys to Downey city commissioners, the council candidates include a mixture of old and new faces, however, each one is hopeful the voters will give him the opportunity to join the leadership of the city.

The race in District 5 is the most impacted with four candidates vying to replace Marquez, including local attorney and Downey Chamber of Commerce President-elect Alex Saab, former professional baseball player Gabriel Orozco, and former Bell Gardens Councilman Salvador Franco.

Franco owned the Eclipse Cafe coffee shop at Firestone Boulevard before it relocated to Bellflower. According to his ballot campaign statement, Franco now owns a vocational training school for "nursing, light auto mechanics, solar technologies and computer technologies."

A Downey resident since 2006, Franco says he'll use "real-world experience" to attract over 100 new businesses to Downey, create hundreds of new private sector jobs and hire additional police officers if elected.

In his statement, Franco also lists the Downey Firemen's Association as an endorsement and promises to "improve our fire department and fire service."

Franco could not be reached for comment.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission fined Franco $12,500 in 2010 after he "failed to file two pre-election campaign statements; failed to file three late contribution reports; and failed to file a post-election semi-annual campaign statement," according to a news release issued at the time.

Attorney Ricardo Perez will also run for the District 5 city-wide council seat.

Perez, who has a Bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles and a law degree from Loyola Marymount University, runs his own law office in Downey.

While Mayor Roger Brossmer is running unopposed to reclaim his District 3 (northwest) seat, District 1 is a crowded race with three candidates hoping to replace Councilman David Gafin who will be termed out of office this November.

In addition to Marquez, the race also includes Planning Commissioner Michael Murray, who owns Downey Used Cars on Lakewood Boulevard, and longtime resident Mark Vasquez who was appointed to the Recreation and Community Services Commission by Gafin.

Despite the competition, Marquez says he's looking forward to serving his community for another four years.

"I live in District 1 so it makes sense for me to run in this district," said Marquez. "There's no difference between the districts. Living in District 1, I've focused my efforts here working closely with my colleagues, we accomplished a lot. If the voters give me an additional four years, I'll continue to move the city forward."

In addition to public safety and economic development, Marquez said he will also work to expand the neighborhood watch program and emphasize a parks master plan.

"I want to focus and continue to do the work and maintain the quality of life for our residents," he said.

Marquez, however, accused some of his opponents of attempting to squeeze him out of the race by launching a "support effort for a ringer."

"I wish every candidate running was trying to get elected," Marquez said. "It's very inappropriate that Mr. Gafin and Mr. Murray would try to divide the voting block by putting a name on the ballot to take votes away from other candidates. There's no place for that."

Marquez said he welcomes any candidate that chooses to run and wants to get elected.

"But Mr. Vasquez will make no efforts, no campaigning, he just has his name on there. I'm very disappointed in Mr. Gafin," Marquez said.

Vasquez could not be reach for comment, and Murray chose to abstain from comment, simply noting that he wishes to run a positive campaign.

"I won't throw mud at anybody," he said. "Luis, Mark - both are good people. I care about this city. I don't have to do this, I want to do this. I just want to give back."

The City Council election takes place on Nov. 6.

********** Published: August 16, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 18