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Mark Pulido tops Cerritos council race; Santarina re-elected

By Dan E. Nino

Cerritos – Filipino-American and ABC School Board member Mark Pulido made history by coasting to victory as the number one pick for the Cerritos City Council on March 8 in his third bid. “Three is a charm!” an avid supporter exclaimed.

Pulido, 42, topped the field of seven candidates by garnering 4,550 votes. Trailing him by 380 votes is re-electionist and former mayor Bruce Barrows who obtained 4,170. Korean-American outgoing Mayor Joseph Cho landed in third place with 3,947. Comebacking Taiwanese-American former mayor Grace Hu occupied fourth place with 3,609 votes. Hispanic-American Chris Fuentes came in a poor fifth with 1,246. Asian Indian-Americans Kiran Rami and Harshad Mody got 952 and 317 votes respectively.

Mayoral transition wherein a new mayor will be elected by the five seating council members will take place on March 16 at 7:00 p.m. at the Cerritos City Hall chamber.

In Carson, Fil-Am Elito Santarina, meantime, was re-elected as expected. This will be Santarina’s third term to serve as member of the Carson City Council.

There was a feeling of looming victory when Pulido posted 1,991 votes when the results of absentee ballots were announced compared to Joseph Cho’s 2,220 votes. It will be noted that two years ago, Pulido won in actual balloting but lost in absentee votes which was won by Carol Chen.

Grace Hu came in third with 1,979 while Bruce Barrows followed closely in fourth with 1,960.

In all, Pulido won eight out of 11 precincts and consistently landed in second spot in this year’s race.

In an e-mail sent to his supporters a day after the election, Pulido said, “Last night, we made history! The voters of Cerritos spoke loud and clear. I am honored and humbled to be elected on the Cerritos City Council to give back to my beloved hometown.”

“I want to thank everyone who volunteered, contributed funds, donated food and helped in any way to make this all possible!”

“I thank God, my wife Gloria, our children Malia and Mark Jr. and our extended family, my friends, my neighbors and most of all the residents of Cerritos to bring new leadership for our great city. I dedicated this victory to my mother Ester and my late father Rudy Pulido.”

The Leelin family hosted the victory party at Goldilocks Restaurant & Bakeshop on election night in Cerritos where Pulido’s supporters, current and retired public officials in all levels of local government in the area, friends and relatives – celebrated the sweet victory of the first Filipino-American ever to win the Cerritos City Council race. Four candidates of Filipino ancestry ran in the past but failed in their attempts.

Pulido’s victory was attributed to the crossovers that he forged with Whites, Blacks, Hispanic, Chinese and Korean leaders and voters as well as other ethnic groups. Some of them volunteered to walk the neighborhood, put up signs, phoned voters, folded and stuffed campaign flyers into envelopes and various chores. Labor union volunteers also constantly reminded voters to vote for Mark Pulido and Joseph Cho who are fellow Democrats. This local election is non-partisan.

From the tempo of the campaign, Filipino-American volunteers left no stone unturned. They mobilized the voters to mail in their absentee ballots or urged them to go to the polls on election day. Filipino voters who were lukewarm to vote in past elections came in full circle to register and vote this time.

Teary-eyed but jubilant, Pulido told the motley cheering crowd of about 200 ardent supporters, “The voters spoke clearly and heard our positive message. This victory is not about me. It’s not my story. It’s what we stood for through the years. You walked shoulder to shoulder with me. You held me up. Community organizations leaders and members had a hand in this serious undertaking: the youth, the seniors, the veterans, etc. Friends and colleagues came together from our diverse and beautiful community. All of these efforts brought us together. I’ll never forget this moment. Dad, you’ll never be forgotten.”

Santarina also thanked his supporters. “This goes to show that we are ripe,“ Santarina said describing the ability of Filipino-Americans running for political seats in the U.S. “We can show that we have the strength and the political will to make representations in local governments. “With the help and support of the Filipino-American community, we can show that we can do it.”

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