With City Councilman Bill Miranda announcing Thursday that he will be seeking reelection this coming November, the field of prospective Santa Clarita City Council candidates has now grown to eight.
As of Friday, three incumbents — Mayor Laurene Weste, Councilwoman Marsha McLean and Miranda — and five challengers — David Barlavi, Aakash Ahuja, Joe Messina, Selina Thomas and Denise Lite — have already filed paperwork with the city clerk’s office indicating they will be pursuing one of the three seats up for grabs this election cycle.
City Council terms are staggered and are four years in length. Both Mayor Pro Tem Jason Gibbs and Councilman Cameron Smyth were elected during the 2020 General Election.
However, while their paperwork already filed indicates their intention to be placed on the ballot, City Clerk Mary Cusick said their candidacies will not become official until this summer.
“Papers are pulled between 113 days before the election and 88 days before the election,” said Cusick, adding that historically this means that the period to file generally falls between mid-July to the first week of August for November elections.
Before the period to pull papers begins, Cusick said the City Council would need to formally call for an election — a process that usually occurs in June.
The election system is based on California election code, according to the city clerk, and requires candidates, among other things, to submit financial paperwork as well as the necessary number of signatures to secure their nomination.
“We verify that they’re actually residents of the city before they pull papers,” said Cusick. “And then when they file the papers, and they have the number of signatures required, then they’re actually considered a candidate.”
“Everything else before then means they’re sort of a ‘pre-candidate,’” said Cusick.
The purpose of filing paperwork this early allows candidates to begin raising funds needed to support their upcoming campaign.
However, the election could appear drastically different than it has in years past, should a pending California Voting Rights Act civil suit filed against the city in December be resolved before November and the court sides with the litigants.
Although city officials decline to comment on the lawsuit, citing that they do not comment on pending litigation, if the plaintiffs are successful, the election system for the council would change from an at-large voting system to a by-district voting system — meaning that, should the new system be adopted for November, candidates would run against one another based on where they live in the city.
The next appearance for the case, Michael Cruz, et al vs. City of Santa Clarita, is a May 9 case management conference at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles.