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Urena and Manzanarez are On Their Way Out of the Calexico City Council

-Editorial

In a historic event that coincided with the 116th anniversary of Calexico’s incorporation as a municipality, unofficial results from the special recall election indicate that city council members Gilberto Manzanarez and Raul Urena are poised to be ousted. As ballots continue to be counted, the initial tallies show a 70 percent of voters supporting the recall, signaling a significant shift in the city’s political landscape.

“Well, yesterday (April 16) was Calexico’s official 116th Birthday and we got the best present from the citizens of Calexico. We came together to get our town back and to move forward. They made decisions that affected the safety and lives of our residents by going against the needs of Police and Fire departments,” Calexico resident Loli Torres said. “We’ve lost experienced city personnel because of their micro-management. We now need to get together and bring Calexico back to its feet. It was never because of their sexuality but more because of their inexperience.”  

The recall election, held on April 16, marked the climax of several months filled with intense debates and heavy campaigning from both sides. The campaign reached its peak in the past two weeks with Council members Urena and Manzanarez intensifying their efforts through television and radio advertisements, attempting to sway public opinion in their favor.

The recall committee argued that the council members’ policies are detrimental to the local economy and the overall quality of life in the city. They contend that the push to reduce funding for essential services like police and public safety is especially harmful, creating an environment that is less secure and less attractive for business investment. 

Council member Raul Urena, who is transgender, took his campaign to a national platform, engaging with media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, New York Post, and France24. Urena claimed that the recall effort was rooted in discrimination, branding it a “hate campaign” against his identity. However, this strategy did not resonate with the majority of Calexico’s electorate, as evident from the overwhelming support for the recall.

In Calexico, a city long plagued by political dysfunction, residents reached their breaking point, propelling them to take decisive action to overhaul their city council. The continuous turmoil and ineffective governance had left the community demanding change, culminating in a movement to oust several council members in a recall election. Despite warnings from Councilmembers Manzanarez and Urena that their removal could pave the way for the return of the ‘old guard’—the very leaders previously they blamed for Calexico’s critical troubles—the electorate seemed poised to reset the political landscape, favoring a fresh start. 

But residents like Lorenzo Echeverria, 74, questioned if the removal will be good for the city as he thinks whoever comes in will not do anything new for the city.

“I would get rid of all of them. Besides, none of the council members have done anything significant in the last ten years so I don’t think will change for the better,” Gonzalo Duarte said. 

Linsey Dale, Imperial County registrar of voters, announced during the County Supervisor meeting that approximately 60 personnel, including precinct workers, inspectors, and monitors, oversaw the election in Calexico. Dale explained that an extra person was placed at each location to handle potential conflicts due to the nature of this being a special election. 

She also noted that around 3,000 vote-by-mail ballots from Calexico residents were submitted. Calexico City Attorney Carlos Campos said that after the votes are counted the City Council will have to certify the election. Until then neither Urena nor Manzanarez will be able to participate in fiscal matters during a city council meeting. Once they are removed from office, the council can appoint or call for a special election. 

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