Former Modesto City Councilman Bruce Frohman says, “Garrad Marsh will give the people of Modesto the best service for their tax dollars.” A close follower of local political issues for decades and a strong believer in farmland protection, Frohman has an insider’s knowledge of the local political scene. He’s also got a pretty good track record in recent elections, having backed dark horse Terry Withrow in the recent Stanislaus County Supervisors’ race.
Withrow upset heavily favored Bill Lyons, former California Secretary of Agriculture, who spent over $300,000 in his bid to replace Jeff Grover. The popular Grover had endorsed Lyons in what many observers viewed as an anointing. But some very local issues may have tilted the razor-thin margin of victory in Withrow’s favor.
Though it didn’t get much play in the press, insiders thought development of the Beckwith triangle west of Briggsmore Avenue was a major factor in the race. The ag-protection people, Jeani Ferrari, Denny Jackman, Frohman and others, view the Beckwith area as a third-rail issue, and many felt Lyons favored development there.
And though Lyons took no strong stand on West Park, the proposed gargantuan “inland port” in Patterson, Grover had favored the massive project proposed by Gerry Kamilos. West Park is also a political lightning rod that energizes ag-protection people, as well as those who think the project a cover for more housing in an area already upside-down with residential development.
Another factor in the Lyons vs Withrow race was party affiliation. Democrat Lyons ran in a bad year for Democrats. And, unlike the rest of the state, the Republican party is strongly united in Stanislaus County. Withrow doubtless benefitted from the tight party loyalty of local Republicans who have already begun circling the wagons around mayoral candidate Brad Hawn, who is thought to be Garrad Marsh’s strongest opponent.
Others in the Modesto Mayor’s race include Robert Stanford, Armando Arreola and Bill Zoslocki. Stanford and Arreola have virtually no chance in a race which is likely to feature the greatest campaign expenditures in Modesto history. Zoslocki, on the other hand, offers a puzzling presence. On paper, Hawn and Zoslocki would figure to split the pro-growth, pro-development vote. Zoslocki is a former President of the Central California Building Industry Association, and figures to pull from the same voter base as Hawn. He should also be able to pony up the serious ante it now takes to be a player in Modesto politics.
It’s very possible that Hawn’s strategy is to portray himself as a moderate. If so, Zoslocki will play the role of extremist-developer and Marsh will be cast as the extremist-NIMBY. In this scenario, Hawn offers a comfortable alternative to polar extremes. Problem is, the script doesn’t reflect reality. Hawn’s endorsements list offers evidence enough that he’s yet another candidate who will fall back on residential development as the only answer to our economic doldrums.
Marsh offers intriguing possibilities for several reasons. He’s the quintessential small town small businessman: after all, he owns a bowling alley. He’s got a diverse group of supporters, a base that could promise a future of teamwork and compromise. And he’s already been targeted by the usual suspects when he was presented with dubious charges of conflict of interest. A factor in that case was Roger Brown, the shadowy figure who was also involved in the “investigation” of Carmen Sabatino. Although Brown remains a mystery, some think he plays the role of hit man for the extreme pro-growth element in local politics.
It is a sign of the times that Garrad Marsh could possibly be thought of as a radical. As a local businessman, he recognizes the economic importance of growth. But hereabouts, it’s considered radical when a candidate suggests we should grow up instead of out, and seek alternatives to residential development for jobs. These are key elements of Marsh’s platform, and they make a lot of sense. Just ask Bruce Frohman.