Final votes counted: Harper, Wilson make history with elections as Antioch Mayor and Council Member
Simonsen elected Clerk
By James Ott
Antioch voters have spoken and the new Mayor is current Mayor Pro Tem Wade Harper who makes history as Antioch’s first African-American Mayor.
Harper beat out fellow city council member Gary Agopian for the Mayor position by garnering 12,594 votes for 40.77% of the vote versus Agopian’s second place total of 10,129 for 32.79%. Next up was former Mayor Don Freitas, who took 6,329 votes for 20.49% and Michael Anthony Leon who had just 1,740 votes for 5.63% of the vote. There were 102 write-in votes.
As a Lieutenant for the City of Tracy Police Department, Harper rode his campaign mostly on a “zero tolerance for crime” slogan.
Antioch has had problems with crime in the past but has recently seen huge increases in crime rate with some property and violent crime categories rising 50 percent as police were cut by the city as a result of drastic budget cuts.
Harper said he will look for “out-of-the-box solutions” to hire more police and Harper also voted for new police as a city council member, although every council member voted to hire more police officers, including Agopian.
When told about the historic significance of his election, Harper jokingly said, “That’s what I’ve heard. I’m the first mayor elected who owns an I-Pad.”
Harper also said he will work to clean up blight and decrease truancy for minors in school.
The race for the two vacant council seats was much closer, with the top vote-getters, incumbent Mary Rocha, newcomer and Economic Development Commissioner Monica Wilson and former Mayor Jim Davis all coming within six to seven hundred votes of one another.
When the final ballots were counted, the two vacant council seats were taken by incumbent Rocha who garnered 11,795 votes for 24.75% of the vote and Monica Wilson with 11,190 votes for 23.48%. Davis followed with 10,524 votes for 22.08%. School Board Trustee Walter Ruehlig placed fourth with 8,465 votes for 17.76% and newcomer Noel Pinto coming in last with 5,538 votes for 11.62% of the vote. There were 147 write-in votes.
Rocha, who will be Mayor Pro Tem for the next two years, as the top vote-getter, campaigned on her 30 plus years working with the Antioch Unified School District, the City of Antioch and many other community groups in Antioch and across the East Bay.
She said she plans to fight blight through Code Enforcement, increase public safety programs and increase employment and business opportunities in Antioch.
Rocha admitted that it has been hard to get things done as a city council member with the rough economy.
“With the recession all it’s been is cut, cut, cut. My goal this time is to get things back the way they were. One thing I’d like to do is to look to see how we can work with the other cities for job creation.”
The poor economy might be one reason that voters chose Wilson, as she has a business background which she said has “taught her to not take no for an answer – persistence = results.”
Wilson is also making history as the City of Antioch’s first female African American council member.
In her first term Wilson said she plans to “promote business and job growth, find funding to increase the number of officers protecting us, keep our road and transit improvements on track and stand up to protect the Delta from plans to divert water south.”
Wilson’s campaign obviously made an impact on Antioch voter’s who also seemed to say they wanted change by bringing in Wilson over Mayor Davis – who did not run for re-election and instead just ran for a council seat.
Davis may be in luck however, a third council seat will be filled either an appointment of the council or another election, when Harper steps down from his council seat to become Mayor. Traditionally that position is filled by the next runner up, which would be Davis as he lost to Wilson by a scant 666 votes, just 1.4% of the vote. But not always.
The council in 2008 voted to pass over then Councilman Arne Simonsen who was the next highest vote-getter in that council election, and instead appointed Martha Parsons to the remaining two years of Davis’ term, when he stepped down to become Mayor. The issue will be decided by the new council of Harper, Rocha, Agopian and Wilson.
Also elected in November was former Antioch Councilman Arne Simonsen, who beat Argentina Davila-Luevano by 3,670 votes or 56.41% to 43.27% for City Clerk. Donna Conley was re-elected as City Treasurer with no one running against her.
The new mayor and council members, as well as City Clerk will take their oaths of office at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, December 4, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Antioch City Council Chambers located at City Hall, 3rd and H Streets in downtown Rivertown.
For detailed election results, visit www.CoCoVote.us.
Publisher Allen Payton contributed to this report.
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