Oxnard’s May 1 special election got competitive last week as 14 candidates qualified for the ballot after turning in the required 20 signatures.
Voters will be asked to keep or recall Mayor Tim Flynn and City Councilmembers Carmen Ramirez, Oscar Madrigal and Bert Perello.
Oxnard’s City Council recently scheduled the election after activist Aaron Starr successfully campaigned to put a recall on the ballot. The cost to the city to hold the election has been estimated to be at least $450,000, which will occur six months before the regular election.
Hoping to take Flynn’s spot, the qualified candidates are Starr, Miguel Lopez, Modesto “Morey” Navarro, Lawrence Stein and Robert Lee Sumpter.
Starr, an accountant who is Haas Automotive’s comptroller, also spearheaded Measure M, a successful ballot repeal of an unpopular wastewater rate increase. Though the Measure M passed in the 2016 regular election, the city has been fighting against the implementation of it in court. Starr also lost his bid for City Council during that election.
Last month Judge Rocky Baio heard testimony in the city’s challenge to that repeal; final arguments by both sides are expected later this month.
Starr used the rate increase to launch the recall campaign, targeting Flynn, Ramirez, Madrigal and Perello, who all voted to raise rates.
Only City Councilman Bryan MacDonald — who voted against the increase on its first reading but joined the others on its second reading — is not subject to the recall.
Beside Starr, also running for mayor are longtime city council watchdog Stein, former planning commissioner Navarro, Sumpter and Lopez, who tried to unseat Flynn once before.
Shortly after being named the City of Oxnard’s Employee of the Year in February 2016, Lopez left his community affairs manager job to become an academic program director at University of California, Santa Barbara.
Later that year he ran against Flynn with the backing of Oxnard’s police officer’s association, faulting Flynn for failure to deal with a growing crime rate, cost of living and aging infrastructure.
“I am running for mayor because Oxnard is not any better today than we were the day after the last election,” Lopez said in a written statement. “I fundamentally disagreed with Tim Flynn then and still do not have confidence in him, his leadership or his ability to lead Oxnard.”
Stein, an accountant who regularly comments on agenda items at City Council meetings, says the city’s finance department lacks credibility because he’s been unable to get requested income statements and balance sheets.
His other priorities include helping City Council meetings run more smoothly by moving closed meeting sessions from Tuesdays to Mondays and making it easier for councilmembers to place items on future agendas.
He says Flynn currently has too much control over future agendas and would like councilmembers to be able to place items on them without going through the mayor.
“The mayor vets them on what they want on agendas, he’s able to limit to discussions,” says Stein. “That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.”
Navarro owns a South Oxnard towing company and in 2012 got the City Council to rename a block of Laurel Street in honor of Santa Clara High School coach Lou Cvijanovich.
Ramirez’ opponents include Al Velasquez, Francine Castanon and Ambrosio Casanova, Jr.; Perello faces a challenge from businesswoman Kari Cryder.
Madrigal, who was elected in 2016 after his third City Council campaign, is being challenged by Miguel Martinez, Daniel Chavez, Jr., Enrique Petris, John Ragan and Angel Garcia.
The deadline to file to run in the recall election was Feb. 15.