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December 6, 2023

Cline sits at top of Gilroy City Council race

Marques, Bracco headed for return

Political newcomer Tom Cline will be joining two familiar faces on the Gilroy City Council, according to the latest election results.

As of 4pm on Nov. 9, Cline led all candidates with 22% of the vote. Carol Marques landed in second with 21.4%, while Dion Bracco garnered 19%.

Jan Bernstein Chargin was a little more than 800 votes outside of the top three, results showed. Joseph Robinson had nearly 12% of the vote, followed by Ronald Robinson Jr. with 10%.

The six candidates are vying for the three open seats on the council.

Cline, the owner of Cline Glass Contractors, is a longtime volunteer with New Hope Community Church and with the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

As the polls closed at 8pm on Nov. 8 and the pile-driving rain let up for a few hours, Cline invited friends and supporters to an election night watch party at his home in central Gilroy.

Guests planted themselves on chairs and couches in the living room, anxiously awaiting the first results to be released at 8pm, which were displayed on a large screen in the corner of the room. As the initial results dropped, Cline landed in first place, only 13 votes ahead of Marques, but his lead increased as updated numbers rolled in.

The following day, Cline said he was enjoying the moment, knowing that he will soon have to step up to the dais and make some often difficult decisions that affect the future of the city.

“It was a unique experience that I’ll never forget, but I’m glad it’s finally over,” he said. “Now, I’m looking forward to having my voice on the council to help move Gilroy forward.”

Cline thanked his supporters, especially his wife of 33 years, Cindy.

“I’ve been really blessed and really feel honored to have a broad base of support throughout Gilroy,” he said.

Marques, a retired Gilroy Unified School District teacher, was elected to the council in 2018 to fill a two-year term. She was appointed in 2020 to fill another two-year term.

With the voters’ decision, Marques will move into her first four-year term, after serving a pair of partial two-year stints.

“I’d like to thank all the citizens of Gilroy who voted for me and have faith in me and my leadership,” she said. “I look forward to another four years to see how many improvements we can make in Gilroy together.”

Bracco, the founder of Bracco’s Towing, was first elected to the council in 2005, and was reelected in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

“Thank you to the voters of Gilroy for their continued confidence in me,” he said.

Bernstein Chargin is a retired Gavilan College administrator who is active in organizations that address homelessness and housing.

She was joined by Joseph Robinson and Ronald Robinson Jr., along with family, friends and Santa Clara County District 1 supervisor candidate Sylvia Arenas for a party at The Neon Exchange in downtown Gilroy.

Before the polls closed, party attendees ate dinner and watched CNN to check out the latest numbers for the Senate and House races throughout the country.

Throughout most of the night, Bernstein Chargin was carrying her “number one supporter,” also known as her 1-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Angie, who was stealing the spotlight from the rest of the candidates.

As the numbers kept rolling in, Bracco began pulling away from Bernstein Chargin for the final spot in the top three.

“It has been an honor to run and be considered for a seat on the Gilroy City Council,” she said. “Although the votes have not all been counted, it seems clear that the voters of Gilroy have made their selection. Congratulations to Dion Bracco, Carol Marques and Tom Cline on their election. I wish them success in achieving good things for our city, and remain committed to sharing my concerns and ideas—and being a thorn-in-the-side when needed.”

Bernstein Chargin added that although she has voted in every election since she turned 18, this was the first time she put her name forward for an office.

“I am deeply inspired by our collective faith in our electoral system, and in each other,” she said. “Despite our differences, we still agree on this foundation: we are privileged to live in a place and time where ‘we the people’ can choose our leaders through a free, fair and democratic process.”

She thanked the voters and all of her supporters for encouraging her during the campaign.

“Although we are disappointed, we will continue to work together, to fight for housing at every income level, for our youth, for smart growth, and for a city that values every resident,” Bernstein Chargin said. “We’re not done yet.”

Joseph Robinson worked for 17 years as a special educator. He and his family moved to Gilroy four years ago, where he volunteers at the Gilroy Museum. 

Ronald Robinson Jr., whose family roots in Gilroy trace back to his great-grandparents, has been a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332 for more than a decade.

The results are an apparent victory for Gilroy’s conservatives, who in the weeks leading up to the election have implored residents to vote for the “1-5-6,” a reference to the order in which Bracco, Cline and Marques were placed on the ballot. Bracco and Cline were endorsed by the Santa Clara County Republican Party, while Marques describes herself as a moderate Democrat.

It’s a disappointing outcome for left-leaning voters, who were hoping the three candidates endorsed by the local Democratic party—Bernstein Chargin, Joseph Robinson and Ronald Robinson Jr.—would flip the historically conservative majority on the council.

Some Democrats viewed the election as a way to give Councilmembers Rebeca Armendariz and Zach Hilton some political allies on the non-partisan dais. The two often find themselves at odds with the rest of the council and have difficulty getting the majority to give its thumbs up on proposals they bring forward.

Cline will fill the seat left open by longtime Councilmember Peter Leroe-Muñoz, who decided not to run for a fourth term.

Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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