Nonprofit CEO Andrae Gonzales extended his lead Wednesday in Bakersfield's contentious Ward 2 council race but incumbent Terry Maxwell wasn't ready to concede.
With thousands of ballots remaining to be counted — but the exact number unknown — Gonzales' lead stood at 1,410 votes. He had 53.6 percent of the vote compared to Maxwell's 35.4 percent.
In third place was retired correctional officer Kevin Blanton, 59, with nearly 11 percent.
Maxwell, who lost in 2004 to incumbent Susan Benham but won a three-way race in 2012 on opposition to widening 24th Street and building Centennial Corridor, said "in races like this you don’t concede."
But the 62-year-old councilman admitted he likely didn't have a path to victory and said he was taking down his signs and preparing to pass the torch.
The city's new Ward 2 City Council representative, whoever he is, will be sworn in at the Dec. 14 meeting of the Bakersfield City Council and begin his term at that meeting.
In an interview Wednesday morning, Gonzales, 34, a Bakersfield City School District trustee, said he was operating on no sleep.
But the CEO of Stewards Inc., which helps people on disability or in retirement manage their incomes, said he is ready to go to work for sprawling Ward 2, which stretches from Kern Medical Center in the east to Quailwood in the west.
Gonzales said if he does prevail, he will spend his early days working with shopkeepers and the Downtown Business Development Corp. to create a business improvement district downtown — spurring, he said, the area's continued revitalization.
He'll also focus on crime, zeroing in on abandoned homes and vacant lots, and "figuring out how to address the marijuana issue as far as the correct zoning and words that protect families and schools."
He acknowledged voters' approval of Proposition 64, which legalizes the recreational use of marijuana — but also the city ban on medical marijuana dispensaries and their illegal proliferation near homes in the Oleander/Sunset neighborhood.
"Rather than saying no marijuana at all, we have to be realistic about saying 'Let’s zone it, tax it and keep it away from families,'" Gonzales said.
Maxwell, who owns T. L. Maxwell's Restaurant & Bar, lambasted The Californian in an interview, accusing its editorial board of endorsing Gonzales in a "one person" decision without interviewing Maxwell.
Senior Editor Robert Price said The Californian's editorial board did not conduct any formal interviews with candidates for local office this year. The board relied on candidates' stated positions, track records and appearances on TBC Media's webcast programming, including "First Look with Scott Cox" and "Off the Press."
Price said Maxwell's assertion that "one person" determined The Californian's endorsement was not correct.
Maxwell also questioned whether his opponent will be able to fulfill a slate of lofty campaign promises given Bakersfield's precipitous decline in sales tax revenue.
"You can’t do the transportation and do something about crime and do something about homelessness and something about (raising) the number of (police) officers. You can’t do it all," Maxwell said. "Now, the rubber will meet the road."