It was a mild surprise among Clovis election watchers, but maybe it really shouldn’t have been. Former police captain Drew Bessinger won the only competitive seat in Tuesday night’s election for Clovis city council. The grandfatherly figure’s message of smart growth resonated with voters. As of Wednesday (March 8), Bessinger scored 68% of the vote over opponent Paul Soares (30%) and Aaronjack Perry (2%).
Election watchers GV Wire spoke to thought Soares would perform better than he did. The latest financial figures from late February saw Soares out-raise Bessinger by nearly $25,000. But others cited Bessinger’s relentless work ethic on the campaign, walking neighborhoods, as the difference.
“There is a saying that 80% of success is showing up. I showed up,” Bessinger said. “I was at the doors. I talked to people. People like to see the people who want to serve them at their door.” Bessinger’s party may have been the liveliest. He hosted dozens of well-wishers at El Quetzal on Shaw Avenue.
Bessinger told GV Wire his goals are to help rebuild the police department, recruit new businesses and revitalize older parts of the city. He plans to take a survey of Clovis residents to discover what businesses they want to see come to town.
Bessinger will now complete the remaining two years of the term vacated by Harry Armstrong, who retired last year because of health reasons. Armstrong served as a councilman for four decades.
Two other seats were also up for election, but the results were a forgone conclusion since only two people were running in the at-large style election. Lynne Ashbeck, first elected in 2001, will serve her fifth term in office, garnering 62%. “People are satisfied with our city. We have the best city in the Valley,” Ashbeck said, as to her staying power. “We appreciate the affirmation that we are on the right track.”
She held a low-key party at Salsa’s in Old Town Clovis. Police chief Matt Basgall was spotted there, watching election returns. Ashbeck’s goals for the next four years is to continue to deliver the level of service Clovis residents are used to, the basics she called it.
Planning commissioner Vong Mouanoutoua will become the first Hmong-American to serve on council, a distinction not lost on him. He had the largest crowd among the four candidates at his election night party held at the Clovis Veterans Memorial Hall. Many in the Hmong community were there to celebrate, along with county Republican chairman Fred Vanderhoof.
“For the Hmong people, it is a true testament to how we have progressed and how America has blessed our people,” Mouanoutoua told GV Wire. “It is a testament that the American Dream is very much alive.”
He earned 37% of the vote. Although less than half the voters marked him on the ballot, he still won his race. An interesting note is that of the 7,953 ballots cast, 4,887 undervoted. Voters could pick up to two, put apparently only marked one name instead.
Turnout, according to the county elections website as 13%.
Mouanoutoua says his first priority in office is to hire a new city manager.
The swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for March 27.