The final vote tally is still days away but for four women who ran on a progressive platform for seats with the Eureka City Council and the mayor’s office, the returns are looking very good.
Susan Seaman leads the mayor’s race over Michelle Costantine and Heidi Meissner with 44 percent of the vote while incumbent Ward 3 councilmember Natalie Arroyo leads her two challengers, Jeannie Breslin and John Fullerton, with 50 percent of the vote.
Leslie Castellano leads three challengers in Ward 1 with 47 percent of the vote and incumbent Kim Bergel looks well on her way to winning the Ward 3 seat over Joe Bonino.
“There is a deep sense of satisfaction and I am pleased with the work and dedication I and my wonderful team brought to the race,” Castellano said Wednesday. “We tried to run a campaign in a way that was in alignment with our values of community and public participation and I appreciate the people in Ward 1 responded favorably.”
Castellano, Bergel, Arroyo and Seaman all ran together as a progressive coalition and Castellano said she believes it was the varying skills and experience they brought to the race that will make the difference in the end.
“I think people want someone to have a vision for the future and work with people who also see positive ways to make an impact and I think they are committed to building upon the positive things, the arts, the economic development, and the work to attract new businesses,” Castellano said. “I think addressing people’s sense of safety in the community is important and I do take the economic worries some folks have seriously. I believe there is a real interest in building coalitions to address issues both short-term and long-term.”
One person who said he doesn’t have much confidence in such coalition building is Mantova, a business owner in Old Town. As of Wednesday, he trailed Castellano with just 24 percent of the vote and he thinks the ward system in Eureka has made it very difficult for people with different social and political views to work together.
“We’re not Chicago, we don’t need a ward system and the only time it matters is during the time of voting,” Mantova said Wednesday. “I can’t tell you how many supporters were surprised they couldn’t cast a vote for me and many went into the voting booth and thought they would be able to do so. The true ward system is making it impossible for people who get elected to work together and the North Coast People’s Alliance is a big part of the problem. We want a City Council that answers to the public and not an activist group.”
Mantova said he was motivated to run because he has seen an exodus of long-time residents who are packing up and moving elsewhere, and he believed being on the council would have allowed him to work toward issues that would improve the city and keep folks at home.
“I ran because I was seeing a drop in long-time customers, they are simply leaving the area and if I won we could make Eureka a better place to live and keep them here. Many were not happy about Eureka’s future,” Mantova said. “Now we have this Balkanization where you have the hard left that will never make a deal with moderates. Now we have five hardcore progressives — well, maybe not Heidi (Messner) — and there is nothing to balance that out and that concerns me.”
Arroyo, who will serve her second term on the council if the current vote tally holds up, said there was plenty of nastiness in the campaign, something she wants to leave behind when the new council and mayor take their seats. Arroyo also said she believes the voting results point to a community that supports progressive candidates and their policies.
“In some ways I think that to some degree this was a bit of a referendum on how the city is doing as a whole and the re-election of me and Kim shows that people are happy with the direction the city is headed,” Arroyo said. “I expected to see a lot of viciousness online and there was but I will say I was not prepared for the degree of vitriol compared to going to door-to-door and meeting people face-to-face. It leads me to believe there is a lot of online activity from people who don’t live in the city but who may be active politically online. There are a lot of folks who will be dissatisfied with the outcome and I also think there was a healthy percentage of people who wanted change. That will be a challenge for this council, to meet those people and work together.”
In the three-person mayor’s race Seaman jumped out to an early lead that only grew as the results came in, it gave Seaman, who works for the Arcata Economic Development Corporation in Eureka, a possible win in her first campaign for office and brought a sense of excitement and anticipation but through it all she said she remained pretty calm.
“I had a weird day on Tuesday; it’s as if some switch in my brain that came on that didn’t allow me to have much emotion, I wasn’t overly excited and yet I felt very calm when the first results came through,” she said before adding she sees a bright future for the city and a lot of hard work for herself.
Seaman also said Mayor Frank Jäger reached out to her as well.
“It will take me some time to get up to speed,” she said. “I feel like I’m an informed citizen but there is so much the city does that I don’t have access to. I got a message from him (Jäger) this (Wednesday) morning and we talked a little bit about the practices and activities the mayor performs.”
Seaman also added that the results, if they stand, show that Eureka voters will support a council and mayor who bring a progressive message to the table.
“One of the things I’m very excited about is that we have a progressive council and we got a mandate yesterday (Tuesday),” she said. “I think they appreciate the direction the city is headed and I talked with a lot of people about small business development, more housing and other community needs.”
The final results of the election won’t be known for a few weeks as uncounted votes are tallied; the elections office has 30 days to certify the results.
Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0528.