Union City Councilmember Jaime Patiño announced his campaign on Tuesday to unseat Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci next November. If elected, Patiño would be Union City’s first directly-elected Mexican-American mayor.
Patiño, who was elected to the Union City Council in 2018, will face an uphill battle against the incumbent, two-term Mayor Dutra-Vernaci, who announced her own re-election campaign earlier this month.
But Patiño believes Union City residents are tired of the status quo led for years by Dutra-Vernaci and for the city failing to take advantage of the tech boom occurring just freeway exits away in Fremont and Silicon Valley.
“We must bring 21st Century ideas to City Hall to make us viable in a 21st Century Economy,” Patiño said. “We must leave behind our old economy of dilapidated, underutilized warehouses that generate few jobs and very little revenue for our City and get aggressive about attracting big name companies like our neighbors are doing.”
In an interview, Patiño said he began seriously thinking about challenging Dutra-Vernacci after council discussions last November over renewing the city’s parcel tax.
Patiño had urged for the proposed ballot measure, which funds public safety and other social services, to include a lower tax. Dutra-Vernaci, instead, favored the maximum amount, a parcel tax of $175 a year.
He said her push for the larger parcel tax was heavy-handed and that she did not initially engage in a discussion with the minority of skeptical councilmembers. “It’s not leadership to do something just because you can,” he said.
The council later settled on a $168 a year parcel tax, which will come before Union City voters on the March primary ballot. Nonetheless, Patiño said he supports its renewal.
In the past, Patiño made runs for the 20th Assembly District seat and an unsuccessful campaign for the Union City Council before breaking through in November 2018. Patiño finished second for one of three open seats on the council.
Patiño would not be the first Mexican-American mayor in Union City history, if elected, but he would be the first selected by the voters. Bernie Morales served as mayor in the late 1960s, but the city council at the time rotated the role of mayor among its ranks.