Inside Tracy’s council campaign stunner
by Jon Mendelson
Nov 16, 2012 | 3860 views | 5 5 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Conventional wisdom got coldcocked Nov. 6, when Nancy Young was elected to the Tracy City Council.

She secured 26.89 percent of the vote, according to the county registrar of voters’ unofficial tally, more than one percentage point ahead of her nearest competitor in a five-person race for two seats.

My own informal oddsmaking said it shouldn’t have gone down that way.

Multiple pre-election conversations with the city’s politically connected had projected a consistent outcome: Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel would be re-elected to the council and Roger Birdsall would follow, replacing Steve Abercrombie, who declined to run.

The first prognostication proved correct, as Maciel secured a second term in office with 25.55 percent of the vote.

The second was about as wrong as wrong can be.

Birdsall was badly beaten in comparison, finishing last in the field with 13.3 percent of the vote, despite a deeper bankroll than any other candidate. (It should be noted he was gracious, applauding his competitors in a Nov. 9 advertisement.)

Through Oct. 20, Birdsall raised $41,536.12 in total contributions, according to campaign finance documents released by the city. That’s nearly twice as much as the race’s second-best fundraiser, Charles Manne, who brought in $22,450.98.

As if to drive home the point that money isn’t everything, Birdsall raised nearly four times more than Young’s $8,893 total — the second lowest out of the five competitors.

The only person with a smaller war chest than Young was Ray Morelos, who said he raised less than $3,000, though the city clerk’s office had not received his latest filing as of this week.

Money wasn’t the only reason why many told me they were surprised at Young’s victory. In many ways, she seemed the least connected to the traditional power circles of the city.

Maciel, an incumbent, enjoyed an obvious advantage in name recognition. The platform of mayor pro tem, which allowed him to fill in for Mayor Brent Ives at numerous community functions, didn’t hurt, either.

Manne, meanwhile, has an up-close look at the city’s gears and cogs as a member of the Tracy Planning Commission. He also had the backing of the Tracy Firefighters Association.

Speaking of experience, Morelos is an entrepreneur who served on the City Council in the late 1980s and has remained an active participant — especially on the city’s Southside — ever since.

And Birdsall has been involved in Tracy’s business community for decades. He had the support of several major power players, including the Tracy Firefighters Association and developer Angelo Tsakopoulos, the chairman of Tracy Hills backer AKT Development.

From the inside looking out, Young was at a noted disadvantage — the least experienced of the five.

But in the end, it was exactly that outsider status that likely fueled her Election Day stunner.

In a field packed with ties to the city, Young was the lone person who could rightly claim to be a “fresh voice” — her campaign slogan of choice.

“Just taking time to listen, I think, was very important to people,” Young told me Wednesday, Nov. 14. “I think there’s a disconnect between the community and City Hall.”

For that reason alone, Young’s victory should be a wake-up call to those closest to the levers of power. People want representatives who step outside the political bubble.

Young also guessed balance played a role.

For two years, the City Council has been made of white men. All have retired from, or are employed in, public service.

Young, a black woman who works as a project manager for JP Morgan, provided a noted contrast.

“In the past, we’ve had a mixture of men and women (on the council),” she said, noting that recent councilwomen Suzanne Tucker and Evelyn Tolbert congratulated her in the wake of her victory. “For the last two years, there have been no women on the council at all.”

But I think it was more than demographics that launched Young to the top spot.

Her victory is local proof of what political operatives have long known — money doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t connect with voters.

Young has essentially campaigned since 2010, when she unsuccessfully ran for City Council. She learned from defeat and ran a high-energy race that focused on human, rather than monetary, capital.

She and a dedicated crew of up to 100 supporters knocked on doors, wrote letters to the editor, attended local gatherings and stood on corners to ask residents for their votes.

“I knew for all of us it was a tight race (in 2012), so I was really trying to get out there and connect with as many people as I can,” Young said. “I never took any of that for granted. … I never really stopped campaigning.”

Young must now shoulder the mantle of leadership. No easy task, even for someone who, to my knowledge, has not missed a council meeting in more than a year.

But if her 2012 campaign is any indicator, Tracy residents shouldn’t be surprised if she takes the oath of office ready to go.

• Second Thoughts is a personal opinion column by editor Jon Mendelson. Share your thoughts at
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November 17, 2012
A plausible explanation is that Tracy citizens wanted to shed the tried and tired old old guard. I trust she will be a fresh and earnest advocate for all of Tracy. How unfortunate we still have Maciel.
December 01, 2012
Maciel is what you get when the council chooses a councilman's replacement rather than following the vote. He was not the next in line, but chosen by the powers who did.
December 06, 2012
To me-here. This is what happens when you get your facts wrong. Abercrombie was the one appointed by the Council, not Maciel. Mr Maciel won both of his seats by vote not appointment. Get your facts straight before you spout off.
December 06, 2012

Spoutin off when they don't know th facts seems ta be a favorite pastime fer many people. Th ole "engage brain before speakin" problem.

Another Maciel detractor said he can remember when Mike said there were no gangs in Tracy. Funny, I've known Mike fer many years before he retired frum th PD an I can never recall once whair he said that. Therefore, since City Council meetins are recorded as historical documents an th TP archives what it prints th challenge ta that comment rightfully is, prove it.

Show all of us whair Mike said thair were no gangs in Tracy.

What yer gonna find is th statement was totally taken out of context, somethiang newspaper people frequently do in order to make a story whair one really doesn't exist. As I recall th statements centered around th issue that compared ta other communities in th US th same physical size of Tracy that Tracy really doesn't have a big gang problem, which at th time that comment was made was entirely true.

I also recall th problem actually was centered on a disgruntled police officer, an friend, who systematically set th wheels in motion to have Chief Janet Thielson (probably spelled th name wrong sorry about that) remove herself frum Tracy PD to be replaced by Gary Hampton, another person not very well liked by th disgruntled officer an his sidekick friend.

Facts really aren't important ta these types of people as ta them th facts just get in th way of thair agenda an thus are meaningless.

Then again, I'm not really tellin ya anythang that ya probably already know.

Time was, "The names have been changed to protect the innocent." Taday in these comment sections th statement has been revised ta say, "The names have been changed to protect those guilty of perpetrating lies by telling partial elements of th truth." Nothin new really.
December 13, 2012
No wmnuz, before Abacrombe's appointment... Maciel was APPOINTED. You get your news straight.

Been here longer than last year?

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