There is a concerted effort, complete with soaring rhetoric, encouraging the appointment of the third-highest vote-getter with little or no consideration of alternative means of filling the seat.
Terms like “do what’s right” and “democratic principles” are being employed to support this proposition. I strongly disagree.
While the “third place” solution is seductively simple and certainly has a commonsense appeal initially, when you break down the facts — regardless of who the affected candidate might be — it is a deeply flawed concept.
I believe I am uniquely qualified to address this matter.
In the November 2006 election, I placed third in balloting for two open council seats and subsequently applied for the vacant seat created when Councilman Brent Ives was elected mayor. Prior to the appointment process that the council decided on, many people told me I should be appointed based on my third-place finish.
My consistent response to that was that the election was not for the open seat and that the council had no obligation to appoint me based on the vote tally.
Nowhere on that 2006 ballot was there any reference to the vacancy that might have been created by the results of the mayoral race.
Voters were asked to elect two council members to full four-year terms out of a field of six candidates, which they did. That was the end of the electoral process for City Council seats in that election.
Filling the vacancy that was created required a completely separate process.
I earned 1,100 more votes than the fourth-place candidate in 2006. Had the council appointed me based solely on that vote difference, those 1,100 votes would have been made golden, having much greater value than any other votes.
It would have also meant that every other voter would have been disenfranchised, in that they would never have had the opportunity to vote for any candidate to fill the remainder of then-Councilman Ives’ term.
There were a total of 15,403 voters in the mayoral race of 2006, where there was only one seat in play. This is a more accurate count of actual voters than the council race, where votes can be cast for two candidates. To have appointed me based on my third-place finish would have meant that an elected position would have been filled based on significantly less than 10 percent of the vote in an election that never included the office in question on the ballot.
This is a poor example of democratic principles.
Those who champion the appointment of the third-place candidate would also have us assume that if the two winners of the election had not been on the ballot, the finishing order of the remainder of the field would have been the same. This is more flawed logic.
As is always the case when I write to the Tracy Press, the opinions I express are mine and mine alone, and I speak as a private citizen. It is my intention to specifically address a process that is being proposed that I believe is improper.
I am not advocating for or against anyone who might desire to fill the vacancy that exists. I have deep respect for all the council candidates who were not elected. Through their service and community involvement, they all have shown they are assets to Tracy.
If a decision is made to make an appointment to fill the remainder of Councilman Elliott’s seat, I would encourage them apply if they so desire, as would I encourage any other eligible citizen who wants to serve on the council.
It should then be the job of the council to objectively interview all applicants and collectively decide who would best serve Tracy. By law, this process would be conducted in open council session to ensure transparency. Another alternative would be to have a special election. This a decision the new council will face.
I do not believe that blindly appointing the third-place candidate would have been the right answer in 2006, and it’s not the right answer now.
When you consider the points that have been raised, it is difficult to rationalize the proposal that an appointment should be based solely on the finishing order of the unsuccessful candidates.
The community deserves a better, more open process.
• Michael Maciel is the mayor pro tem of Tracy and was first elected to the City Council in 2008.