Monday, November 12, 2012

Jose Castañeda now a Salinas councilman

Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew Liu reminded me via Tweeter (gotta love social media) that I predicted José Castañeda - his former client - would be re-elected by his constituents at the Alisal.

I did. Here in this post. Seems that I had totally forgotten about it on election night. 

Castañeda, current board president of the Alisal Union School District, won a decisive victory on his quest for a seat on the Salinas City Council, capturing so far 53 percent of the vote. He bested union-endorsed Margie Wiebush, who's received so far about 32 percent; and well-heeled, Salinas Valley Leadership candidate Josh Kuzmicz, who barely got 15 percent even though he spent the most on the race.

Supporters for mayor elect Joe Gunter, who had gathered to celebrate his victory at the Grower's Pub, gasped in disbelief when the T.V. screen flashed the news of Castañeda breaking away from the pack. Like Joe Heston, they seemed very removed from the reality of the Alisal.

Here's my takeaway from the election: Boots on the ground can beat well financed candidates. Obama and his organizing machine was able to withstand the power of Citizens United and the obscene amounts of money it brought. Castañeda declared no money spent for the election, and judging by the lack of signage in the neighborhood, he didn't. He relied on the goodwill he's built among his neighbors, the muscle of the May First Alliance, and the general distrust people of the Alisal seem to have of outsiders. Neither Wiebush nor Kuzmicz speak Spanish, which is practically the first language of District 1.

It'll be interesting to see how far Castañeda gets on the Salinas City Council. At the Alisal Union board, he forever played the game of the contrarian, voting against the majority until he helped drive them all out and new members more amenable to his own views were elected. He never saw the need to build alliances, and eventually, he proved he didn't need to.

I'm not sure that's going to get him very far in citywide politics, but what do I know?

Will we be looking at a complete makeover of the Salinas City Council a few years from now, brought to you by Castañeda and his allies? Or will Salinas Valley Leadership learn the rules of a game it's not used to playing?

Stay tuned.

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