Marques victory adds slow-growth vote

In the Nov. 6 election for three four-year seats on the Gilroy City Council, there were no surprises.

Not so for the single two-year seat.

In the major upset of Election Day in Gilroy, incumbent Dan Harney lost to slow-growth advocate Carol Marques for the open two-year seat.

Harney and Marques had engaged in a contentious campaign, with Harney raising more money and Marques banking on solid neighborhood support. Marques led by more than 2,000 votes one week after the election, in unofficial returns from the Nov. 6 vote.

The three incumbents running for four-year seats all easily won re-election by wide margins.

Marie Blankley, who was appointed to her council seat less than a year ago, won her first election and was the top vote-getter among all candidates. Dion Bracco and Peter Leroe-Muñoz both were re-elected.

Gilroy voters were asked to select three of six candidates for the four-year council posts. Blankley topped all candidates with 7,882 votes, according to unofficial returns from 100 percent of city precincts. Candidates had gone to bed Tuesday with fewer than half of the votes tallied; by morning, elections officials reported that Blankley had received 25.15 percent of the vote, Bracco, 18.81 percent and Leroe-Muñoz, 18.31 percent.

The three other candidates, Tom Fischer, Reid Lerner and Tim Renggli all received less than 18 percent of the vote. The totals, but not the results, will change as final mailed and provisional ballots are added this week and next.

The Marques-Harney contest was marked by candidates’ stances on development and growth in the city. Gilroy Growing Smarter, the influential “smart growth” group based mainly in the west side neighborhoods, campaigned for its endorsed candidates.

Mayor Roland Velasco told the Dispatch, “What I’m hearing from the community is that they’d like to see slower growth.”

Formed in 2016 to press the fight for the urban growth boundary Measure H, Gilroy Growing Smarter had been vocal in its opposition to what city staff has called an “agri-tourist” project.

The project was approved this year in the new neighborhoods along Hecker Pass, turning an empty lot into a mixed-use housing space, winery and 200-car parking lot. The project approval mobilized community members against incumbents who had voted in favor of the project and were up for re-election.

Velasco voted against the project and has been vocal about his opposition.

Harney, who was appointed to his seat on the council, had voted in favor of the development that Marques opposed. Marques defeated Harney with 58 percent of the vote.

The only incumbent the group endorsed was Dion Bracco, who won his bid for re-election.

The other candidates Gilroy Growing Smarter endorsed were Tom Fischer, Tim Renggli and Marques, who is the vice chairwoman of Gilroy Growing Smarter.

Marques credits her victory to her history as a lifelong resident of the city. “Living here all of my life, I have deep roots,” Marques told the Dispatch.

Gilroy Growing Smarter chairwoman Connie Rogers said the group was “very pleased and proud that Carol won so decidedly.”

She said the group was disappointed that Fischer lost his council race, but was happy two of the four candidates endorsed won their elections.

Rogers agreed that Marques’ history with the city helped her campaign succeed, but said her slow-growth platform was the voters’ most powerful motivator. “Most especially, I think her message resonated about slow growth and not letting developers push the city of Gilroy around.”

Marques told the Dispatch she plans to stay in her board position with Gilroy Growing Smarter unless a conflict arises.

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