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Incumbents Face Tough Council Campaigns in La Mirada, Norwalk, Cerritos

By Randy Economy

Three hotly contested city council elections officially got underway this week in Norwalk, Cerritos and La Mirada.

Last Friday was the final day in which hopefuls for the March 5, 2013 Municipal Elections had to finalize their nomination papers with local city clerks.

Here is a rundown of the candidates:

NORWALK: Four challengers hope to unseat Kelly, Mendez

Veteran City Council Members Cheri Kelley and Mike Mendez are facing tough reelection campaigns from three well connected challengers and one political newcomer to the scene.

Taking on Kelly and Mendez will be challengers Enrique Aranda, Candy Martinez, Daryl Adams and Bryan Mesinas-Perez.

Kelly was first elected to the Norwalk City Council in 1997, and Mendez has served on the five member body since 1988 and has served as mayor of Norwalk on six different occasions.

Adams is the current President of the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District Board of Education.  Martinez formerly ran for city council in 2011, and has been active in civic affairs for several years as a commissioner.

Aranda is a first time candidate for Norwalk City Council, and works for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for Los Angeles County.  He is the life partner to newly elected Cerritos College Trustee Dr. Sandra Salazar.

Mesinas-Perez is a first time candidate for public office.

CERRITOS: Incumbent Chen Faces Six Challengers

Incumbent Councilwoman Carol Chen is seeking reelection and is being taken on by six candidates.

Challengers include James Joonghan Kang, Kiyong Ma, George Ray, Frank Aurelio Yokoyama, Gerad Valencia and Alejandro Estella.

Kang is a current elected member of the ABC Unified School District Board of Education.  This is Kang’s first run for a slot on the Cerritos City Council.

Ma has the backing of current Cerritos City Councilman Joseph Cho, and has served on city committees and has been a resident of the community for three decades.

Ray has been a resident of Cerritos since the late 1960’s and has been active in civic and business affairs for more than 40 years.  He is also the owner of a private engineering business in nearby Santa Fe Springs.

Yokoyama is a local real estate agent and independent film producer and is also an outspoken member of the Cerritos Planning Commission.  He has the solid support of Councilman Mark Pulido.

Valencia and Estella are both newcomers to Cerritos elected politics, and this marks their first foray into a campaign for office.

La Mirada: Garcia, Deal face three “determined” opponents

Three determined challengers have stepped into the fray to face Mayor Gabe Garcia and appointed city council woman Pauline Deal in what many longtime city hall observers believe could be one of the most “hard fought campaigns in decades” in this city of 50,000 residents.

Businessman Steve Keithly, Newport Beach Police Officer Andrew Sarega, and resident Randy Gray have all entered the campaign and all three believe that “change is needed” in La Mirada.

Keithly is a popular well connect figure in La Mirada who currently serves as a Planning Commissioner.  “I am businessman who understands what it is going to take to fix the many challenges we are facing as a community,” Keithly said in an interview.

“These are challenging times for La Mirada.  Think about it, we have 60,000 cars driving through La Mirada each and every day and we need to attract businesses that will want to make them stop and spend money here in La Mirada,” Keithly said.

Saraga, 25, is running for city council for the second time.  The Newport Beach police officer has deep family roots in La Mirada.  A graduate of both La Mirada High School and Biola University, Saraga is also a former professional soccer player who competed in Europe.

“I am not happy with the direction of our city.  We have real serious fiscal issues and I believe La Mirada Cit

“I am not happy with the direction of our city.  We have real serious fiscal issues and I believe La Mirada City Hall needs to change with the times and so does the city council,” Saraga said.

Garcia is running for his second four year term and admits that La Mirada has “had severe challenges” after the elimination of redevelopment agencies in California.  The Mayor pointed out that the recent retirement of longtime city manager Tom Robinson is going to place additional “challenges” on “whoever is elected in this campaign.”

“I believe I bring to the table longtime experience as an elected leader here in our community on both the school board and with the city council, and the voters know who I am and what I stand for,” Garcia said.

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