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Arias, Esparza Win Spots on Fresno Council. Chavez Wins Re-Election



Photo of Miguel Arias and Nelson Esparza
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Luis Chavez

The next Fresno city council will be more left-leaning and majority Latino.

Miguel Arias has defeated Tate Hill in the District 3 race, 58%-42%, with 100% precincts reporting.

In District 5, Luis Chavez won his case for re-election to represent southeast Fresno, with a 62%-38% win over Paula Yang, with 100% precincts reporting.

And, in a seat that swung in the favor of Democrats, Nelson Esparza bested Brian Whelan, 59%-41% with 100% precincts reporting.

“I feel like it’s a collective community effort and a collective community win,” Esparza said at his victory party at the Broadway Events Center in downtown Fresno.

Latino Majority

Arias, Chavez and Esparza join Esmeralda Soria, who won re-election in June as an unopposed incumbent, as the new majority-Latino council.

Arias noted that the last time there was a majority-Latino council was 20 years ago.

Those four, along with District 4 councilman Paul Caprioglio, give the council a decidedly Democratic look (though city council offices are officially non-partisan).

“That really sends a strong signal for our mayor that we need to find a way to collaborate and ensure our democratic values will be honored,” Arias said from the same election-night party at the Broadway Events Center.

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, a Republican, supported Hill (a Democrat) and Whelan (a Republican) for council.

Steve Brandau (District 2) and Garry Bredefeld (District 6) will represent the council’s only Republicans. Clint Olivier, a libertarian-leaning Republican representing District 7, is termed out.

2019 Issues

The next city council already has work on its plate. It will tackle such issues as how to implement water fees, regulation of marijuana businesses and the aftermath of Measure P’s defeat.

Esparza is already thinking ahead.

“We have to fix our broken public safety system. We need to structurally address our homeless issue. That’s a beast in itself. What I preached during the whole campaign for a long-term vision is economic development. A lot of this won’t happen without resources,” Esparza said.

The new council will be sworn in Jan. 8, 2019. Brandau is next in the pre-determined rotation to become council president.

Measure P Fails

Not only did Measure P, the proposed 3/8 of a cent sales tax raise in Fresno, fail to garner two-thirds of the vote needed, it couldn’t even attain a majority.

With 100% of the precincts counted, “No” votes prevailed by a margin of 51%-49%.

This campaign pitted the current mayor, Lee Brand, against former mayors Ashley Swearengin and Alan Autry. It also divided many on Fresno’s philanthropic front. Campaign spending on both sides exceeded $2 million.

Measure A Wins

Measure A, which would allow the city of Fresno to impose up to a 10% business license tax on the cannabis industry, appears headed to victory. With 100% of precincts reporting, A is leading 70%-30%. It needs a two-thirds margin, which it is currently exceeding, to pass.

Olivier, who strongly supported the measure, says the city now needs to move forward with regulations for the cannabis industry.

“We got a lot of support from Democrats, Republicans and independents as well,” he said on election night. “Either we get on this train or run over by it.”

Results on two other Fresno measures are split.

Measure O, which would clean up outdated language in the city’s charter, is trailing 51%-49% with 100% precincts reporting.

Measure Q, which would require a balanced budget, prevailed easily with a margin of 80% – 20% with 100% precincts reporting.

Both measures require a simple majority to pass.

This story has been updated.

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email