A pair of newcomers ousted a pair of incumbents in voting on Election Day in Escalon, while a current councilman and a former panel member were returned to office.
Incumbent Jeff Laugero was returned to the Escalon City Council in voting on Nov. 8, and former council member Walt Murken will be returning to the dais. The two won the available seats on the council over challenger and first-time candidate Will Smith.
Murken, the city’s former police chief that previously served on the council, received 1,143 votes, according to results released by the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters office. Laugero was close behind with 1,131 with each of the two winners polling roughly 41 percent of the vote. Smith had 486 votes for 18 percent and there were 10 write-ins.
“First, I’m deeply humbled by the results and very appreciative to the Escalon voters,” Murken said. “It will take a meeting or two to get up to full speed on current issues but I want to focus on the sewer problems and future of our water system. I would like to see the office of the police department open to business, even if only for limited hours.”
Laugero, serving currently as mayor pro tem, was also thankful for the community support but said there are still ballots left to be counted.
“There may be updated numbers before Thanksgiving. That being said, I feel good about the vote as it stands now and that Walt and I will be the top two,” he said. “My goals are to continue to improve public safety and our city’s infrastructure. I will continue to work for traffic signals at Brennan/120 and Ullrey/McHenry. With the new rate structure we can upgrade our water delivery system and repair our sewer system. We also have the room now to expand Hogan-Ennis Park to make a true community park for all ages to enjoy.”
Results from the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters also showed challenger Nick Caton winning over incumbent Amy Bavaro for the Trustee Area 3 seat on the Escalon Unified School Board. Newcomer Josh Cummings was the top vote getter in a three-way race for two seats on the Escalon Fire Board, turning out incumbent Jim New. Incumbent Steve Reichmuth did win re-election.
For the Escalon Unified School District Board, Caton received 460 votes – 61 percent – while Bavaro received 291 votes, for 39 percent, and there were three write-ins.
“I am completely humbled and honored by the incredible support from the community. With the trust that they have bestowed onto me, I look forward to continuing to be a steward and advocate for district students and employees,” said Caton. “My number one focus is and always will be our children, and to create a positive environment where they can succeed. I am excited to work with the Board, and feel that we all have similar interests and goals for our district in the upcoming years.”
On the Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District Board, Cummings received 1,825 votes, polling 44 percent in the three-way race. Reichmuth received 35 percent of the vote with 1,476 votes to return to office, while New polled 854 votes, 21 percent of the vote.
Cummings, who had his first job out of high school working with Mike Pitassi at Escalon Community Ambulance, said he saw running for the fire board as a way to get involved and give back.
“I live in Escalon, I have two young boys growing up here,” Cumming said.
A neck injury playing high school football negated his chances of continuing to play in college so he went in the ambulance-fire service direction. Now a fire captain for the City of Ceres and a paramedic with American Medical Response, Cummings is looking forward to his new endeavor.
“I felt this would be a good opportunity for me to learn from the other board members, but I also think it’s an opportunity to help Escalon become more progressive, I want to work with Chief (Rick) Mello and make it a better fire service for the citizens in the city. I want to make sure the citizens are taken care of, number one, and second, as a firefighter, I really care about, from the fire chief on down to the volunteer, that this is a good environment to come into.”
Born and raised in Modesto, Cummings now lives with his wife and children in Escalon.
“I’ve always known this community was pretty special,” he said.
In other races of local interest, incumbent Congressman Jeff Denham appeared headed for reelection in the 10th Congressional District, with 51 percent of the vote in San Joaquin County and 53 percent in Stanislaus, with challenger Michael Eggman receiving 49 percent of the vote in San Joaquin and 47 percent in Stanislaus.
U.S. Representative Jeff Denham thanked voters for the support and expressed confidence that his 7,422 vote margin would continue to grow as the final ballots are counted.
“I want to thank the voters of the 10th district and say that I am honored by their decision to choose me as their representative,” Denham said the afternoon following the election. “Our margin is strong and we believe it will grow as additional ballots are counted over the next several days. I will continue to be a voice for our Valley and will fight for our water and for economic policies that grow jobs.”
Eggman’s office, meanwhile, stated the race was not over until every voice is heard and every vote was counted. Eggman officials said they were working around the clock to ensure every vote is accounted for before the race is officially called.
“My race is too close to call, but this race isn’t over and starting today we are hitting the ground running to make sure every vote is counted and I hope you will continue to stand with me,” Eggman said in a press release. “Together, we have built a strong grassroots campaign that I am confident will ultimately win. But I will need your continued support to cross that finish line. There are still tens of thousands of votes left to be counted and we need to ensure everyone’s voice is heard.”
In the 5th Senate District, incumbent Cathleen Galgiani was outpacing challenger Alan Nakanishi, 57 to 43 percent in San Joaquin County, 53 to 47 percent in Stanislaus County.
The 12th Assembly District, with Heath Flora and Ken Vogel vying to replace the termed out Kristin Olsen was a close race, showing Flora with 48 percent of the vote in San Joaquin County, 54 percent in Stanislaus compared to the 52 percent for Vogel in San Joaquin, 46 percent in Stanislaus; that race also too close to call until the tallying of all ballots, including Vote By Mail ballots not yet tabulated and verified.
Reporter Richard Paloma contributed to this story.