Archive for Thursday, April 7, 2005

Four years later, Garcia wins mayor’s race

Former council president erases ‘01 defeat with Tuesday victory

April 7, 2005

By the time the clock struck 11 p.m., the crowd gathered inside the basement at Community National Bank in Basehor had gradually thinned out and food from the tables was being wrapped and put away. Earlier in the evening, the room doubling as election night headquarters for Basehor mayoral candidate Chris Garcia was braced for a victory celebration.

But, not only weren't voting returns from the Leavenworth County Clerk's Office making their way to campaign headquarters, there was no good news -- no news at all, in fact -- to celebrate.

Yet.

The crowd had to wait, but eventually Garcia supporters received the word they were looking for: Garcia's preliminary vote totals had surpassed rival Joseph Nick Sr. and, barring a monumental mistake in the vote count, Garcia had just won the office of mayor.

Garcia, a former Basehor City Council president and past mayoral candidate, wore the same calm look when receiving the good news as he did throughout the night while awaiting the results.

"I took nothing for granted," Garcia said. "I was waiting for the results to come in before I said anything for sure."

According to the county clerk's office, Garcia received 457 votes Tuesday. Nick, a retired town postmaster and former school board president, received 296 votes. The totals are unofficial until a vote canvass takes place Friday.

Garcia's win completes a task he began at the end of 2004. After months of contemplating whether to run for mayor, Garcia filed for the office in November, two months ahead of the January filing deadline.

It's been a winding road that has brought him to the mayor's office. In 2001, he ran a last-ditch write-in campaign against mayoral candidate Bill Hooker, who resigned from the office the next year and is now a City Council member. Current mayor Joseph Scherer replaced Hooker.

Garcia ran in 2001 in the place of then-mayor John Pfannenstiel, whose re-election bid was nixed after he as convicted of felony charges.

Despite running as a write-in candidate and having only two weeks to campaign, Garcia showed well in the election, losing to Hooker by a slim margin. After the loss, Garcia was humble and thanked his opponent for a clean campaign.

He was equally modest Tuesday night. Upon learning of his victory, his first comments were of praise for Nick.

"We both said we were going to run a clean campaign, that there wasn't going to be any negativity," Garcia said. "He kept his word and I kept mine."

Garcia said he also respects Nick for attending council meetings leading up to the election. That showed Nick was earnest in his desire to serve and reinforced the notion, as Nick had said throughout the campaign, that he had no agenda other than working for his fellow residents.

"I applaud him for that," Garcia said. "He took it seriously. I think just by doing that he was serious about the position."

Garcia said he believed a blend of factors helped him secure the win Tuesday night. Since he filed for office six months ago, he had steadily increased campaign efforts by speaking with various civic organizations, visiting residents door-to-door and advertising his platform. Also, he said the base of support he received in 2001 carried over four years later.

"I was very encouraged by the number of votes I got as a write-in candidate," he said. "That definitely helped me make my decision."

Garcia and two other City Council members elected Tuesday night -- incumbent Keith Sifford and newcomer Terry Thomas -- will be sworn in Monday, April 11.

While the agenda at Monday night's meeting is already scheduled, Garcia said he will soon begin shaping his own administration.

Soon after he takes office, Garcia said he will schedule a joint meeting between City Council members and members of the Basehor Planning Commission to more thoroughly define their roles in city government.

Following that, he hopes to begin implementing plans for improving communication between municipal government and Basehor residents, which Garcia listed throughout the campaign and again Tuesday night as his top priority.

"I think communication will take care of a lot of our issues and problems in the city," he reiterated.

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