This year, residents living in 3 of the 5 Fullerton City Council Districts will be voting to elect a district representative for the first time. Fullerton voters approved district elections and the district boundaries in 2016. In 2018, the first 2 Council members elected by district were Ahmad Zahra in District 5 and Jesus Silva in District 3.
Voters in Districts 1, 2, and 4 will see candidates for their respective council district on their November ballot. The candidates are required to live in the district for which they are running. Also, only residents living in the district are eligible to vote for a candidate in their district.
At-large council members Jennifer Fitzgerald and Bruce Whitaker were elected in 2016 and will serve their full terms until the end of this year. Fitzgerald released a statement on June 25 stating that she will not be running for City Council in the district in which she lives, District 1. However, Bruce Whitaker, the longest-serving council member, will be vying for a seat in District 4 this year.
Jan Flory’s at-large term also expires this year. She lives in District 2. However, when the City Council selected her to fill the at-large position vacated by Jesus Silva when he won the District 3 election, she explicitly stated that she would not run for Council in 2020.
Candidates cannot yet request a petition from the Fullerton City Clerk, but many have already signaled their intent by filing campaign finance disclosure forms.
District 2 has the most candidates so far. The first to file a Form 501 for his campaign was Nick Dunlap in January 2019. He is a former Planning Commissioner and the son of Paul Dunlap, founder of Dunlap Property Group. Charles Sargeant, who ran unsuccessfully in 2016, formally filed on August 22, 2019. Then in January 2019, Chris Gaarder, a current Planning Commissioner and policy advisor to Orange County District 1 Supervisor Andrew Do, filed his intent to run.
District 2 has attracted more candidates well in advance of the election, likely because it is perceived as an open seat where no incumbent is on the ballot. Technically, the by-district elections in 2020 do not have any incumbents, but many perceive a current at-large councilperson running in the district as an incumbent.
Incumbency weighs heavily in favor for most candidates and tends to discourage challengers. In 2016, there were 5 candidates for District 5 where there was no current councilmember (incumbent) running in the district. By contrast, in District 3 where there were 2 perceived incumbents running, there was only one challenger.
This year, Districts 1 and 4 are districts with perceived incumbents and each has only one challenger thus far. Fred Jung, a former Parks and Recreation Commissioner and founder of the Fullerton Bears youth football league, was the only challenger to Mayor Fitzgerald in District 1, before learning she would not be running.
District 4 also has a perceived incumbent and only one challenger, Jose Trinidad Castaneda. Although Castaneda no longer plans to run as he has said he will be stepping aside for a more experienced and better-funded candidate who has not yet publicly announced their campaign.
Candidates will formally file to run for City Council between July 13 and August 7. Check the Elections link on the City Clerk’s page at CityOfFullerton.com to lookup your City Council District and to see who is running in the 3 districts.
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