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Gilroy
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April 23, 2021

Editorial: Council needs to listen to voters when filling vacancy

Marie Blankley will be Gilroy’s next mayor, which means the Gilroy City Council will have to make a decision in December.

Blankley’s council seat will become vacant once Mayor Roland Velasco passes the gavel. The council can decide to fill it by either a special election or appointment.

The choice should be simple: fill the seat with the candidate who finished with the next-highest number of votes in the Nov. 3 council race, which is incumbent Carol Marques.

However, the council didn’t exactly listen to the voters when it was in a similar situation four years ago.

In 2016, Velasco was elected mayor, leaving a vacant seat with two years remaining on its term. Three council members had also been elected at that time. 

Rather than fill Velasco’s former seat with the next-highest vote-getter—who was only 95 votes away from the top three—the council decided to appoint the sixth-place finisher, Daniel Harney, who had already been appointed by the council earlier that year. The council, in leapfrogging the fourth- and fifth-place finishers, opted for “continuity” rather than the voters’ will.

In 2020, the council is faced with the same situation: Blankley has two years remaining on her council seat, with multiple candidates left over after coming up short to fill three open seats.

What’s different now, though, is that only two candidates remain, rather than five in 2016.

Marques, whose efforts to establish an urban growth boundary in 2016 resonated with voters in 2018, and who has proven to have a fiscally responsible mindset during her council term, finished surprisingly 1,500 votes out of a Democratic Party-endorsed top three in this election. If the council wants to carry over the theme of continuity that drove its decision in 2016, Marques is the consistent choice.

Political newcomer Danny Mitchell, the only Gilroy candidate besides Blankley and Gavilan College trustee incumbent Mark Dover to be endorsed by the Santa Clara County Republican Party, finished fifth. Despite Mitchell raising the most money out of all council candidates, and receiving endorsements from well-established organizations such as the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and Gilroy Police and Fire associations, voters leaned left in this election cycle.

A special election, with the time and costs it takes to put on, should be out of the question when there are already willing candidates anxious to fill the seat, let alone the city’s budget challenges.

We expect the council will listen to the voters this time around.

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