City employees picket Hayward City Hall
last August. 

CAMPAIGN 2014 | HAYWARD | It’s been eight years since Hayward had a competitive race for mayor. In 2006, Michael Sweeney topped Brian Schott and subsequently won re-election four years later against a write-in candidate. Sweeney, though, announced last August he would not seek re-election. The decision leaves a wide-open race to replace him featuring three of his colleagues on the City Council.

Councilmembers Barbara Halliday, Francisco Zermeno and Mark Salinas qualified for the June 3 election. The deadline for filing ended Wednesday. Hayward businessman Christian Rakesh Kumar is the fourth candidate. Kumar is also running for governor, according to the Alameda County registar’s Web site.

Since three of the four candidates have similar accomplishments serving on the same council, the imminent fight to create daylight on issues has already brought some passive clashes during recent council meetings. None was more evident than last month, when Zermeno latched upon a statement by Salinas describing the city’s youth as unhealthy. In public comments afterward, Zermeno attempted to portray the remarks as anti-Hayward.

In addition, the two open seats on the City Council also contain a host of interesting angles following a controversial vote by the council last month to impose a five percent wage cut on nearly 300 city workers. The action had members of the Service Employees International Union, Local 1021 fuming. One SEIU Local 1021 representative labeled the action “an act of war” and vowed to end the political careers of every council member. Although there appears to be no alternatives for labor to support in the mayoral race, the same cannot be said for the at-large council race.

Councilmember Marvin Peixoto, elected in 2010, is the lone incumbent in the seven-person race. His contract vote may make him vulnerable this June. Salinas would have been the second incumbent in the race had he not run for mayor this year. Among the potential front runners is Sara Lamnin, a well-known community activist in Hayward, who ran unsuccessful campaigns recently for the school board and city council. Lamnin finished third in the race for two seat in 2010, albeit over 1,200 votes shy of a spot on the council.

In addition to Peixoto and Lamnin, Hayward businessman Ralph Farias, Jr. is the third repeat candidate from four years ago for the City Council. Farias finished a distant fourth and is one of the most colorful public speakers in the East Bay. In past campaigns (he also ran in 2012), Farias has often been critical of the city’s record in attracting businesses to its moribund downtown and advocated two years ago for the building of a Walmart grocery store on the Union City border.

Ryan “Rocky” Fernandez, a well-known East Bay politico and current district director for Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, may also be an attractive alternative for labor, as is Hayward Planning Commissioner Rodney Loche. Two prospective candidates with ties to the Hayward Chamber of Commerce were eyeing runs for the City Council, but only one qualified for ballot.  Julie McKillop, the owner of Hayward restaurant Neumanali is another candidate for City Council. Moreover, Brian Schott, who faced Sweeney for mayor in 2006, pulled out of the race shortly before the deadline this week. A seventh candidate, Phillip Gallegos is a political newcomer listed on the city’s list of candidates as a performing arts technician.

Despite two contested and intriguing race, it remains to be seen if it will awaken voter apathy in Hayward. Just over 30 percent of registered voters participated in the last mayoral election four years ago, according to the city clerk. As the leading vote-getter in 2010, Peixoto needed only 7,140 to secure a seat on the council. June elections typically attract fewer and more ideological voters than the pool of participants in November general elections. However, voter participation in a presidential primary year in 2012 returned an even lesser degree of excitement in Hayward with just 27.78 percent of registered voters visiting the polls.