Just after midnight, the Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters website results showed that 13 of 13 precincts in Patterson had been counted. Earlier in the night, many of the numbers had only slightly changed since the first results were posted at 8 p.m., but the gap between all candidates tightened as the night wore on.
Molina slid ahead to win the election with 1,365 votes, 53.8 percent of the vote, while Annette Smith, his mayoral opponent and present councilwoman, earned 1,160 votes, 45.7 percent of the vote.
Cuellar and local magazine owner Novelli edged out the three other candidates vying for the two open council seats, winning with 1,119 votes (25.7 percent) and 1,085 votes (24.9 percent), respectively. Cuellar and Novelli were trailed by Larry Buehner, 935 votes (21.5 percent); James Leonard, 877 votes (20.1 percent); and Sheree Lustgarten, 334 votes (7.7 percent).
Molina said he celebrated his win Tuesday night with little fanfare, instead choosing to ring in the victory at home with a small group of friends and family.
“I am not exhausted as I thought I would be by tonight,” he said. “I’m feeling good. I’m satisfied we were able to reach out and connect with a broader spectrum of people than we did in 2008 and that we stayed true to the original intent of the campaign.”
Burned out from campaigning, a majority of the other candidates said they also preferred to watch the election results privately with friends and family, with the exception of Leonard, who hosted an election party at his home for friends, relatives and supporters.
Novelli, who chose to watch the election results with Smith and both women’s families, said late Tuesday that she was ecstatic upon learning about her win for a council seat.
“Being a newcomer to Patterson politics, I am beyond thrilled that the people of Patterson had the confidence to put their trust in me,” she said. “It’s been so long leading up to now that I’m almost afraid to let go of the campaign, but I know it’s time to turn the page.
“I’m excited to start rolling up my sleeves to really get working for Patterson.”
Smith, on the other hand, did not hide her displeasure with the outcome of the election results.
“I have a lot of concerns about working with Luis, but I’m willing to give it a shot,” she said. “It’s my responsibility.”
Despite her disappointment with the outcome, Smith said she did not foresee any threat to the decision-making process, especially with the addition of Novelli to the council and the continuing presence of Councilman Dominic Farinha.
“I think that we (Smith, Novelli and Farinha) see the big picture on large issues, while Luis does not,” Smith said. “I don’t foresee us separating on those large issues in the future.”
The election results come during a tumultuous and unsteady time for Patterson government, with many crucial decisions on the table.
City leaders have been working to finalize an update to the general plan before the next council takes office and will try to balance the budget by the year’s end. In the past month, officials also weighed and ultimately approved a proposal to build a Walmart store in town.
Meanwhile, for months, city workers have scrambled to cover key positions left vacant this year by the departure of Cleve Morris, city manager; Rod Simpson, community services director; George Logan, city attorney; Margaret Souza, finance director; and, just days ago, interim city manager Bryan Whitemyer.
Despite Smith’s misgivings, Molina said he had no doubt he could work closely and effectively with his one-time opponent.
“I didn’t vote for her, but that doesn’t mean I can’t work with her,” he said. “I’ll work with anybody. It’s important to conduct the business of the people in our community in a civil manner.”
Upon returning to the council for another term, Cuellar said Wednesday afternoon that he also looked forward to working with the new members.
“I hope that we will be able to band together as a new council, and push past this divisiveness we’ve had to work for the real interests of the community.”
Patterson voters turned out by the droves Tuesday, seemingly encouraged to make their opinions heard by everything from controversial statewide propositions to heated local and national races, poll workers said.
“The line of voters has been steady enough to where we’ve been busy all day,” Steve Nelson, inspector of one of two voting precincts operating out of the Patterson Unified School District offices, said about an hour before the polling place closed.
“It’s only going to get busier tonight.”
• Contact Kendall Septon at 892-6187 or email@example.com.