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Candidates Set for Watsonville City Council Special Election

Two relative newcomers to Watsonville politics will face off for the vacant District 2 seat in a special election slated for Dec. 7.

PHOTO: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

Two relative newcomers to Watsonville politics will face off for the vacant District 2 seat in a special election slated for Dec. 7.

Francisco “Frank” Barba and Vanessa Quiroz-Carter turned in the paperwork required to run for office just before the deadline on Monday evening. Alicia Urbieta Islas, another candidate who pulled papers on Monday, did not meet the 5pm deadline.

They will battle for the seat vacated by Aurelio Gonzalez, who stepped away from politics last week because of a family emergency. The winner will hold office through 2024.

Although neither Barba nor Quiroz-Carter have held a public office, the two have been peers on the Watsonville Parks and Recreation Commission. Barba first joined the seven-member body that oversees the city of Watsonville’s parks in September 2020. Quiroz-Carter was appointed to the commission in January shortly after running unsuccessfully for the District 2 seat against Gonzalez, an incumbent who was first elected to the City Council in 2018 via a special election.

District 2 contains several neighborhoods east of Main Street through Beck Street—including the communities surrounding Watsonville High School—as well as portions of California Street and Palm and Hill avenues.

Neither candidate returned a call asking for comment on this story as of 5pm Tuesday.

Candidate statements for both Barba and Quiroz-Carter are up for a 10-day public review, a period in which District 2 voters can challenge any information included in the statements through the Watsonville City Clerk’s Office.

According to his candidate statement, Barba works with Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services and is a Lion’s Club member. He also used to work at Safeway, where he was part of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 839. 

Born to immigrant parents, Barba is a lifelong resident of Watsonville and a 1997 graduate of Watsonville High. He holds an associate degree in liberal sciences from Cabrillo College.

According to the statement, he has been endorsed by Santa Cruz County Supervisor Greg Caput, Santa Cruz County Board of Education Member Ed Acosta, Watsonville Mayor Pro-Tem Ari Parker, Pajaro Valley Unified School District Trustee Oscar Soto and community organizer Barbie Gomez, who was recently named Woman of the Year by the Pajaro Valley Chamber and Commerce and Agriculture.

“When elected, I will listen to our Community—not push a divisive agenda,” the statement reads. “We are all stronger when we come together.”

Quiroz-Carter in her statement says she is an adjunct instructor at Hartnell College and has served on the Santa Cruz County Women’s Commission. She has also been a board member of the nonprofit Families In Transition. 

She is a descendant of immigrants from Mexico and a third-generation Watsonville resident. She first attended Cabrillo College before transferring to UC Berkeley, where she received a bachelor’s in English literature. She also holds a master’s in communication from Cal State East Bay.

“I’ve dedicated my career to building community through education and public service … As your city council member I will work to amplify voices of community members, and work with you to bring positive change and opportunity to Watsonville,” the statement reads.

Participating in her first election Quiroz-Carter impressively received 46% of the 1,714 votes cast by District 2 residents in the Nov. 3, 2020 election.

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