On a Friday afternoon before the Nov. 6 election, Gilroyans lingered at a local watering hole, discouraged about the conditions of Gilroy schools and economy, but hopeful that mayoral candidate Don Gage is the answer to Gilroy’s future.
Over beers and burgers at Stubby’s Sports Bar and Grill on First Street, a handful of Gilroy voters – even registered Democrats – agreed that the “fence mending” and “fiscally responsible” Gage is the best candidate for Gilroy’s mayor.
Gage, a Santa Clara Valley Water District board member and former Gilroy mayor, is running against current councilmen Peter Arellano and Dion Bracco.
“I think (Gage) has what it takes to whip this town back into shape,” said Shannon Kelly, 54.
With all the “polarization” going on in local politics, Kelly said that Gage’s skills are exactly what City Council needs.
“He knows how to get people to work together, and we need that right now,” Kelly said.
Kelly, a Home Depot employee, described himself as a lifelong laborer who wants a mayor who can truly represent the middle class.
Despite being a Democratic-leaning independent, Kelly said that the Democratic mayoral candidate Peter Arellano (a doctor at Kaiser Permanente) is too much of a professional to stand for blue-collar laborers. The election for Gilroy mayor is nonpartisan, and each candidate’s party affiliation is not on the ballot.
“I want someone who can fight for the middle class, and I don’t think Arellano is that guy,” he said. “I don’t vote Republican, but I’ll make an exception for Don Gage.”
Kelly’s friend, 56-year-old Patrick Weymouth, said that union organizer Rebeca Armendariz and incumbent Cat Tucker were the only two City Council candidates he found worthy of his vote.
“I didn’t like any of the rest for the third spot,” Weymouth said, laughing.
Kelly agreed, although he only supported Armendariz not Tucker, saying that he is tired of a City Council that is “80 percent business people,” and thinks Armendariz would bring a fresh perspective and voice to the laborer.
“If a union representative can’t do it, I guess nobody can,” Kelly said.
Along with Armendariz and Tucker, three other Gilroyans are running for three open seats on City Council – incumbent Perry Woodward; Paul Kloecker, a former three-term councilman; and Terri Aulman, planning commission chair.
Carl Swank, a 46-year-old Gilroy resident, was around when Gage was a two-term Gilroy mayor in the 1990s, and hopes that Gage will be given another go.
“He was a great mayor, and he will be again. The one now, I don’t like at all,” Swank said, taking a swig of his beer.
Swank and his friend, Ralph Carrillo, said that schools are in dire need of help – but that Proposition 30, a state measure that would increase sales tax and income tax on those who make more than $250,000 to restore school cuts statewide – is not the answer.
“They always say that the money goes to the kids, but it goes to the politicians. I know that if Jerry Brown is supporting it, there’s got to be something wrong with it,” Swank said.
Not all at Stubby’s cared, or even knew much about the local election.
“I’m not into Gilroy politics,” said Estevan Rivera, 26. “I got too much else to focus on.”
Rivera, a plumber, broke his wrist over the summer and has been out of work. Thankfully, he said his wife makes enough for the two to squeak by, but not comfortably.
Not surprisingly, Rivera said the economy is the most important issue to him in this election.
Despite facing rough times, Rivera said he plans to “stick to the man in office,” when he votes on Tuesday.
“There’s something underlying about the other guy that’s creepy. It’s the hair, the smile, or something; it just says ‘beware,’” Rivera said.
Rivera’s friend, Jose Salazar, 33 of Gilroy, lost his job as a carpenter in July after 14 years of consistent employment.
“I’m trying to get ahead, I’m a single parent, and this just makes me feel like less of a man,” Salazar said.
Disillusioned with politicians and tired of political-attack ads, Salazar said he plans to opt out of voting this election.
“I truly believe that no one running for office can relate to those of us in the lower economic class,” he said.