Despite declaring in January 2011 he did not intend to run for Gilroy’s top political seat, City Councilman Peter Arellano is considering throwing his hat in the 2012 mayoral race, according to an email Arellano sent to potential supporters Wednesday.
“Over the past year, I have been asked by many people of Gilroy if I would run for the office of the Mayor in 2012,” Arellano wrote. “Gilroy needs a strong, dedicated leader who has experience and knowledge of the past and present of Gilroy and a vision to lead it into the future. In this regard I am now considering entering the Mayoral race.”
A couple of Arellano’s fellow incumbents are surprised; others say they saw it coming.
“I knew it a year ago, even though Peter didn’t. I would have bet $100 bucks,” said Councilman Bob Dillon, who had an inkling Arellano wasn’t out of the mayoral picture.
Although Dillon never heard a word prior to Wednesday, “it just looked like [Arellano] was in campaign mode,” he said.
Referring to a Feb. 24 Dispatch article which reports that City Councilman and mayoral candidate Dion Bracco has a criminal record that includes a 1990 felony conviction for possession of methamphetamine for sale, Dillon added “I think the current situation with the mayoral race didn’t do anything to discourage [Arellano].”
That’s not the case, according to Arellano, who said Friday his decision to keep the mayoral door open “had nothing to do with the story of Bracco…this was already being thought of and worked on for the last month – trying to decide if I’m going to at least think of it more seriously.”
In the months that have passed since January 2011, “more and more people keep asking me to run,” said Arellano.
Similar to Dillon, Councilwoman Cat Tucker said she wasn’t shocked at Arellano’s possible change of plans.
After people approached Arellano and asked him to run for mayor, Tucker said she heard the news through mutual friends.
“He hasn’t contacted me. I guess I’m not on his friends list,” she laughed. “It does take a strong team to run. He’s going to have to get a strong, dedicated campaign team.”
Arellano may be doing just that.
After “long and thoughtful” deliberation, he is forming an Exploratory Campaign Committee “since I do not take this endeavor lightly,” he wrote in his email.
Arellano is seeking friends and supporters of his past four council campaigns to consider joining the committee. In his email, Arellano discusses the importance of a future that is “environmentally responsible, economically viable,” and “emphasizes prevention, respects employees, provides expanded programs for our youth and builds community through our diversity.”
Fellow Councilman and 2012 mayoral candidate Perry Woodward – who was planning to solicit Arellano’s endorsement and campaign ideas – said, “I was actually a little stunned” by the news.
He’s happy to hear it, however. The more candidates, the better, said Woodward.
“I think that’s great if he decides to run. I think campaigns are good for the community,” said Woodward Friday. “If he runs, the fact that he can bring a different point of view will cause the campaign to have a wider discussion of the future direction of the community.”
So far, only Bracco and Woodward have announced their intentions to run.
For a city of Gilroy’s size and population (around 50,000 people), Woodward said a mayoral campaign can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000. The year 2012 is also a general election year, Woodward reminded, meaning City Council candidates will have to compete with a cacophony of political noise along the campaign trail.
The question of whether Arellano assumes a spot in the race alongside Bracco and Woodward begins with his Exploratory Campaign Committee; the first meeting of which will be held from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday at 7473 Dornoch Court in Gilroy.
A graduate of Stanford University Medical School who currently works as a physician at Kaiser Permanente, Arellano was first elected to City Council in 1999.
He ran again in 2003 and lost, but was re-elected in 2005 and 2010.
During the 2010 council elections – where Arellano raked in the third highest number of votes at 2,860 – he proposed building downtown parking lots behind blocks to deal with parking problem, and touched on the importance of infusing money into the projects of the Department of Parks and Recreation to keep youth busy and out of trouble.
“I was a little surprised to hear about it,” said Councilman Peter Leroe-Munoz, who won a wire-to-wire victory with 3,057 votes in the 2010 race for three City Council seats. “But the fact that the election is in November and there’s still some time – I can see why other candidates are still weighing their options and deciding whether they want to jump in the race.”
During his three terms serving on City Council, Arellano consistently fought for prevailing wages for workers who build city projects. He also supported a failed ordinance that would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Gilroy.
Arellano ran in 2010 for a seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and lost. The South County Democratic Club endorsed Arellano’s bid for supervisor at the time. Arellano’s current term expires in November 2014.
Arellano has two daughters and is a lifelong resident of Gilroy. He is 61.