With all candidates in place for the Pleasanton municipal and school board elections on Nov. 8, the campaigns are underway to win voters at the ballot box.
The term "ballot box" has waning significance with a majority of voters expected to favor mailing in their ballots long before Election Day.
Sample ballots will be mailed to registered voters starting Oct. 10. Those who have also registered for mail-in ballots can start voting that day. Those who have not yet registered to vote must do so by Oct. 24.
Although the presidential race is dominating the headlines and airwaves, Pleasanton voters also have choices locally.
Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, a Republican, is being challenged by Democrat and former Pleasanton Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio in the 16th State Assembly race. State Senator Steve Glazer, a Democrat, is being challenged by businessman Joseph Rubay, a Republican, in the 7th State Senate race. Both districts represent Pleasanton.
More heated is the race for mayor of Pleasanton, where Mayor Jerry Thorne is being challenged by Julie Testa. Thorne was first elected to the City Council in a special election June 7, 2005, and then re-elected by wide margins in November 2006 and again in 2010. A retired executive from Hewlett Packard, he was elected mayor in 2012 and now is seeking his third term in office.
Testa, a former member of the city's Human Services Commission and a longtime advocate of measures to reduce school overcrowding, has worked work with students at Las Positas College, the board of NAMI Tri-Valley (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and on local nonprofit boards, including the board of directors for Tri-Valley REACH (Resources Education Activities Community and Housing).
The race for the two seats available this fall on the Pleasanton City Council also is grabbing voters' attention, with Herb Ritter, a businessman and the city's Planning Commission chairman, campaigning vigorously to unseat one of two incumbents, Karla Brown or Jerry Pentin, who are seeking re-election.
With four candidates seeking election to three available seats on the Pleasanton school board, this may be one of the most substantive and consequential races in recent history.
Two incumbents, Valerie Arkin and Jamie Hintzke, are seeking re-election. A third incumbent, Christ Grant, dropped out of the race a few days before the filing deadline, with Kathleen Ruegsegger and Steve Maher choosing to enter the race.
Ruegsegger is a former school board member and for years worked as an executive assistant for former superintendents in Pleasanton and Palo Alto school districts. Maher was Pleasanton's longest-serving principal when he retired at Hart Middle School and had both taught and served as principal at more schools than anyone else in the district -- ever. During the six years since his retirement, he continued to serve as a interim-principal in four schools in the district.
Pleasanton voters also will face two measures on their local ballot.
Measure MM, if approved, would ban big-box stores such as Costco from locating within a proposed Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone. The Pleasanton school board has placed a $270 million bond measure on the ballot that, if approved, would pay for multiple projects the district said it needs, including rebuilding Lydiksen Elementary School and possibly building a ninth elementary school during the 30-year life of the bond. It would cost property owners a tax of $49 per $100,000 of assessed valuation.
There is a lot at stake in both local elections, and with the presidential race on the ballot, there is great hope that more voters than ever will tune in to these local races and cast informed ballots.
At a time of angst and conflicting community sentiment about the direction we are headed as a city and a school district, we are hopeful that by Election Day the candidates are offering voters clear choices on both policy matters and leadership style.