Primary Question: Hayward Mayor

Clockwise from the top: Councilmembers Barbara Halliday, Mark Salinas, Francisco Zermeno and Hayward businessman Rakesh Kumar Christian.

THE CANDIDATES All three major candidates are also sitting members of the Hayward City Council hoping to replace three-time Mayor Michael Sweeney, who is retiring this summer. Barbara Halliday is the longest-tenured member of the City Council. In previous races, she has proven to be a candidate who consistently finishes at the top of the pack. In the 2012 council race featuring four open seats, Halliday won the top spot. Most describe Halliday as a steady presence on the council. She consistently supported the Downtown Hayward Loop and has held steadfast on her vote earlier this year imposing a five percent wage cut on city workers…Councilmember Mark Salinas’s run for mayor constitutes one of the most ballsiest political moves in the East Bay. If he does not win this race, he’s out of office after choosing not to run for likely re-election this year on the City Council. Salinas, too, voted for the wage imposition, but does not support the Loop, disliked by many Hayward residents…Just two years ago, Councilmember Francisco Zermeno barely snagged the last open seat on the City Council at the expense of long-time member Olden Henson. Zermeno’s political career has had serious ups and downs, but he’s hoping this year he can parlay his support for Hayward businesses and the growing Latino vote into a win on June 3. He was the first candidate to enter the race a year ago and like his council colleagues, voted for the wage cut imposition. However, unlike Halliday and Salinas, Zermeno has tried to temper his rhetoric toward city workers, but still stands by the vote that raised significant ire from the Service Employees International Union Local 1021…Rakesh Kumar Christian is Hayward businessmen who ran for governor in 2010. He did not win. Incidentally, in addition to running mayor of Hayward, Christian is also running another challenge to Gov. Jerry Brown this June concurrent to this race.

MAIN BEEF Curiously, the main issue in this race is not between the candidates, but the group of three who voted for a contract imposition against city workers. Although, SEIU Local 1021 failed to find a union-friendly challenger in this race, they effectively shut off any support from others to Halliday, Salinas and Zermeno. Vote “None of the above” has been the mantra for mayor. But, obviously, one of them will become mayor next week. Hayward residents care about four things: attracting new business downtown, the Loop, crime and schools. The last issue has little relation to what a mayor can accomplish. Salinas opposes the Loop, while the others offer tacit support for the unpopular issue. However, an interesting predicament confronts each candidate. If Hayward is in such bad shape, why hasn’t one of the candidates done something tangible to fix it as a sitting council members? As the candidate with the least experience on the council, Salinas has tried to use this logic to make a case for himself, but it remains to be seen how voters will react to a Hobson’s Choice of three candidates, all with a hand in furthering an unappealing status quo in Hayward.

QUOTABLE “Let’s face it, we probably never will in our lifetimes be a very wealthy city like, I don’t know, Piedmont, Palo Alto,” said Halliday during a forum in April.

BY THE NUMBERS Voter Registration: Democratic 59.0%; No Party Preference 19.2%; Republicans 12.2%.

Campaign Finance, cash on hand through May: Zermeno $21,834; Salinas $17,046; Halliday $12,132; Christian, no report filed.

2010 Mayoral Election: Michael Sweeney 97.3%; Write-In 2.7%.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH 1. Barbara Halliday 2. Mark Salinas 3. Francisco Zermeno 4. Rakesh Kumar Christian.

AFTERMATH The first order of business for whoever becomes mayor is reconciliation. A near majority of the City Council running hard-fought campaigns certainly fosters animosity. Furthermore, the loss of Mayor Sweeney in this area could be impactful. Sweeney was often the guiding hand for goodwill and unity on this council. That’s gone and the new paradigm in Hayward will be tested early. First, the new mayor desperately needs to mend the situation with its public employees. Second, if either Halliday or Zermeno become mayor, there is the question of who is appointed to fill out the remaining two years of their council term? Could it be Salinas? After all, he decided to not seek re-election to council this year for a run at the mayor’s office. It’s unclear how well such a scenario would go over with the public.