Six months before Election Day, Gilroy’s mayoral ballot is beginning to take shape, as Councilman Peter Arellano officially announced his candidacy on Wednesday, just one day before candidate Councilman Perry Woodward dropped from the race.
With Gilroy’s former mayor and countywide political powerhouse Don Gage having announced his intention to run last month, Woodward dropped to support Gage – and said he thinks that the two remaining candidates, Arellano and Councilman Dion Bracco, “have their work cut out for them,” in competing against Gage.
“I’ve done a lot of thinking over the last couple months, and I had to remember the reason I entered the race in the first place,” Woodward said. “I saw a need that wasn’t being filled. I wasn’t satisfied with Dion Bracco and Peter Arellano as choices. But with Don Gage entering, I had to reconsider.”
Woodward, who was elected in 2007, said he plans to run for a second term on city council, and plans to fully support Gage’s mayoral campaign.
“The fact is that Don wants the job. I’m surprised, but pleased. I think that will be good for Gilroy,” he said.
Woodward’s council term expires in November, and had he ran for mayor and lost, he would have had to sit out from city politics until the next election. By dropping out of the mayoral race, Woodward believes he can best serve the city by being re-elected for another term on city council.
Woodward, who is a partner at Terra Law in San Jose, raised $10,000 for his mayoral campaign and spent about half of it. He is unsure, legally, what he should do with the remaining contributions, but said he will be researching options soon.
“You do get caught up in the campaign,” Woodward said, acknowledging it was difficult for him at first to think about conceding. “We’re all competitive people (on council), so it took me a little while of soul searching to come to the right decision.”
As Woodward washes his hands of the race, Arellano has officially stepped in, according to a press release he sent out Wednesday.
On March 3 Arellano announced the formation of an “Exploratory Committee,” and since then speculation arose in the community that he would pursue a campaign for mayor.
Arellano’s press manager, Vince Monroy, said Arellano is growing a list of endorsements, not just locally, but from regional and state representatives. Monroy would not reveal any names.
Arellano, the only Democrat in the race, did not return phone calls on Thursday, but Monroy said that Arellano’s major campaign issues are to make Gilroy neighborhoods safer, developing downtown and preserving the environment.
“Arellano is taking this candidacy extremely seriously,” Monroy said. He was first elected to the council in 1999.
Gage said that since he announced his candidacy on March 15, he has raised a significant amount of money from campaign contributions and is about halfway to $25,000, which is the maximum amount of campaign donations allowed.
When Gage learned that Woodward was no longer in the race, he was “shocked.”
“That’s kind of amazing to me,” Gage said. “I’m pleased that I have one less opponent, but I’m surprised he came to that conclusion because he started out very early on in the race.”
Gage said with his most challenging opponent out of the race, the landscape of Election Day will shift dramatically.
“This really changes things,” he said.
Even still, Gage isn’t confident he’ll win by a landslide. He said that Bracco has his share of hardcore followers, and that Arellano, being Latino, will pull in a large portion of the Latino vote.
Despite speculation that Bracco might drop out after a Feb. 22 Dispatch story revealed he had a 1990 felony drug charge, Bracco is adamant that he is staying in.
“Of course I’m still running. Nothing has changed. I wouldn’t run for mayor if I didn’t think I could win,” Bracco said on Thursday. “Don Gage is the godfather of politics in South County. To run against him is to run against the best, but I think the more choices we can give the voters, the better.”
Bracco believes that he has an edge because of his background in business, and Gilroy needs more business owners to run city government.
“People in business have a good understanding that we need less government not more,” Bracco said. “I want to continue Gilroy down that path.”
Bracco believes that the race won’t be a contentious one, because he has “nothing but respect” for his competition.
Mayor Al Pinheiro, who is not seeking re-election, believes that Gage is “obviously” the strongest candidate among the three.
“Mr. Gage will bring continuity to the mayor’s position, he will bring a spirit of working together, and it’s exactly what we need right now with all these weird politics,” Pinheiro said.
Three council seats are also open in November, possibly four if current council members Bracco or Arellano win the mayoral election. So far, two candidates have announced they are running for council – Woodward on Thursday, and former three-term Councilman Paul Kloecker last August.
“Seriously considering” a candidacy is Terri Aulman, City Planning Commission chair.
Russ Valiquette, park operations manager at Gilroy Gardens and former council candidate, wants to put rumors aside that he is running for council. He said on Thursday that he is “absolutely not” considering entering the race for a council seat.