Thursday, August 24, 2006
At Chapala Restaurant in Oldtown Salinas, the campaign party looked like many others that have been held there. The place is the Salinas Mecca for Mayor Anna Caballero and other electeds and community leaders. The appetizers were familiar, the band good (as always), the same bartenders pouring the same drinks, owners Lucy and Claudio Pizzaro gracious hosts as usual. Not even the faces of the partygoers had changed much.
But what was different was the guest of honor, Salinas mayoral candidate Dennis Donohue.
He’d been to plenty of those parties, particularly the ones for Measure V, the sales tax initiative to resuscitate city services, but this one was different. Donohue even looked different, clad all in black, standing at the head of the circle. This was his night, his gig.
This is no mistake. Donohue emerged early on as the heir apparent to the mayoral throne, long before he announced his candidacy. He campaigned hard for Caballero, and reassured the Weekly back in May of Caballero’s chances to beat Ana Ventura Phares for the Democratic nomination to the 28th District Assembly. “Oh, don’t worry; Caballero’s going to win,” he said with a grin.
Caballero did win, and thanked Donohue for his support during her victory speech June 6.
In the past, Caballero has appointed Donohue to the General Plan’s Citizens’ Review Committee, then later to the Planning Commission. He co-chaired the campaign committee for Measure V, then was appointed to Caballero’s Rally Salinas! steering committee.
Their endorsement lists could be superimposed on one another’s—Salinas City Councilwomen Gloria De La Rosa, Janet Barnes, Jyl Lutes, former councilwoman Jan Collins, and local leaders Darlene Dunham, Don Nucci and Bruce Taylor, among others.
But at Chapala on Aug. 17, Donohue and his supporters insisted that the apparent passing of the torch does not mean it’ll be just another term of the same for Salinas.
“I intend to be mayor for all of Salinas, not just a particular crowd,” he said. “I am interested in building an economic foundation that allows Salinas to look forward to the future.”
Donohue, who is president of European Vegetable Specialties, acknowledged that the city is just beginning to recover from nearly a decade of fiscal tumult. He said he’s poised to take Salinas down a different road—he’s not simply changing cars.
“It’s a brand new beginning, and I’m really, really excited about it. And tired,” he said over the band.
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City Councilwoman Gloria De La Rosa said Donohue has her vote because of his business experience. “He brings people together,” she said. “He has a vision to make Salinas a better place, and he draws a diverse crowd.”
Pastor Frank Gomez, who runs the East Salinas Family Center, says Donohue’s message is apparent in the work he’s already done.
“I’ve watched Dennis behind the scenes in East Salinas, with things like after-school tutoring programs,” Gomez said. “He’s not just all talk. He’s recruited donors and tutors alike. He’s the reason our tutoring program has funding.”
Bob Nunez may have been the one skeptic of the night. He said it’s just too early to tell who will get his vote. The Salinas Realtor said he came to learn more about Donohue.
“I’m here to listen,” he said, swirling his red wine. “But
[Donohue] seems like the one who can attract businesses to
Salinas, and that’s good for people who live and work here.
For now, it’s more important just to sit back and
The number of years Jim Morgens’ September Ranch development proposal has been in the pipeline. The County Planning Commission recently voted to send the latest version of the subdivision to the County Supervisors, who approved a 1998 plan that was overturned on appeal due to an incomplete environmental impact report. Source: Monterey County Planning Commission.