Government / Politics

Election 2018: Hollister City Council District 3

Three candidates compete for one council seat.
Elia Salinas.JPG

Editor's Note: This article was updated 10/22/18 as the candidate interviews were incomplete.

Three candidates are seeking election to the District 3 seat of the Hollister City Council on Nov. 6 election: Raul Escareno, Elia Salinas and Honor Spencer. The position will be vacated by Councilman Karson Klauer.


Raul Escareno was born and raised in Morgan Hill and lived in Watsonville before moving to Hollister about a year ago. He has owned Mangia Italian Kitchen for three years.

Escareno said he has no background in politics and never thought he would be a politician.

Nonetheless, he feels he is a people person and likes to surround himself with successful people because he wants to be a successful person. Those conversations have led him to understand what people like and don’t like about Hollister, he said.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for Hollister City Council?

ESCARENO: I’m running because I want to make a difference. I want to be somebody that makes a change. I feel like my life and background, I’ve been through so much and have accomplished so much after all the bad things that I’ve done as a kid. After all the negativity I’ve received from people, it just makes me a stronger person. I think if someone like me can be a great influence to not just this town but to the kids of this town, why not?

What issues are most important to Hollister?

I would say the most important issue is going to be the infrastructure. I think we need to focus on the infrastructure. Like I’ve told people, it’s not like I am against growth, I’m not against growth. But before we get to that point we need to fix the problems at hand. 1) infrastructure, 2) the schools and things the kids need, our future. How do we expect our kids to succeed if haven’t given them the things to succeed? Sometimes it is like giving them a place to hang out. I know people are like “why would we want to do that?” You want the best for your kids. You want the attention [they] deserve from school. Mine are still little tiny ones so I want to make sure everything is ready for when they are older. So if I can change things for kids that are older now, then I want to do that.

So I think we need to fix the infrastructure, bring in more businesses. Not just corporate and stuff but bring in more companies, more industrial businesses, that way people can have jobs close to home rather than having to travel 30-40 minutes away with traffic. Because I see in “what’s going on in Hollister” it’s all about traffic. An hour, hour and a half, two hours, took me three hours, four hours. Everybody wants to come home to their kids. Everyone wants to come home to their families. So if we are able to offer, as a city, jobs like that for people, then you won’t have to travel as far.  

What are issues you feel are important to your district that the public may not know about?

The schools. I don’t know if people talk about it enough or not. I haven’t heard it too much. Everybody is usually [talking] infrastructure and stopping the growth. I think it’s the schools and giving kids somewhere to go. To get help, to get counseling, to get guidance. When you have a town that there is nothing for them to do, even as something fun. Or like encourage kid-friendly businesses to come. If they have nothing to do, they are going to do what every other kid does: listen to rap music and do drugs. And that is why you get a lot of deaths that happen or have happened recently in this town due to drug overdoses. The one thing is not making it as accessible to kids so I’m also against recreational marijuana. My belief as a person, my beliefs as a parent, my beliefs religious-wise: medical is one thing, but recreation—now you are making it available to any stupid person that wants to go out there and do something dumb.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

Being smart. Thinking ahead. A lot of times we think about creating more homes and the money it’s going to bring, but we don’t think about the problems that’s going to happen in five years from now, 10 years from now.

Creating more parks. At least making developers create more parks. Usually most of the parks that I go to are the size of my restaurant. I might as well make [the restaurant] a play place.

How do you plan to address them?

We need a plan and solve our issues first, the issues at hand, which are the infrastructure, growing too much, unhappy people. You can’t always please everybody, but try to do what’s best for the community and then grow with the plan. It’s not a problem about the growth, it’s just that we’ve been growing without a plan. And that’s where I think the big problem is.

You have the traffic, you have the roads that need to be fixed and nobody wants to take responsibility for it. And I think when we do it, later on, after we fix these problems, decide [how] to grow, do it with a plan on hand.

For example, Memorial [Drive]. That’s something in my district. Here on Memorial there is a stop sign that I’ve spoken to the whole community there, the whole neighborhood, and they said about 90 percent of the people don’t see the stop sign and they just go. So that can cause an accident. Little problems like that is what we have to fix so they don’t create problems in the future.

How do you intend to communicate and stay in touch with the constituents you’d represent?

Social media. I’m very big on social media. I guess you can say I’m a Facebook freak. I’d make my number available to anybody. I’m here at the restaurant. Anyone is more than welcome to come in, set up an appointment. I’d like to keep the restaurant as the restaurant and politics as politics.

Would you consider writing opinion articles for BenitoLink from your position as an elected representative?

Of course. I would make time for that. It might be late articles you might see posted at one or two in the morning because by the time I leave the restaurant, but that would be perfect. I think that is the problem we are having now with a lot of council [members] is that there is no communication with the people. Maybe the decision they made people might not be for it, but the fact that there is no communication on why they did it. For example, right now somebody is having problems with that Monterey Bay Power [Monterey Bay Community Power]. I’ve seen it on my PG&E and I’m like “What is going on here?” Nobody was ever told. Supposedly they sent out flyers. City Council approved it. I was never informed by anybody in City Council. My job as District 3 representative is I want to voice the voice of the people, not my own. I’m not in it to do anything for my personal agenda. I’m just in it to be a better community and grow smart. Grow the way we have to grow.

What is the role of local government?

I think it’s to enforce rules, but also adjust to the situations at hand. Create rules and delegate people to enforce them. To add to that, the most important thing to that is to listen to the public.

According to the Santa Cruz Records, you have four DUIs.

We all make mistakes. I’m not saying my mistake was a good one. This was a couple of years back. I didn’t get convicted until last year because I kept postponing and postponing and postponing so my lawyer, I guess you can say, made sure that my conviction wasn’t till the day I got my sentence.

I wasn’t planning on having a family. I have a baby now. Another one on the way. I got married. Now my perspective on things is, not that before I didn’t act like an adult, but I guess you can say I didn’t care. I was too busy focused on myself and what I wanted and what I wanted to do that I didn’t focus on others. Now as I grow and have a family your mentality changes. I paid my dues to the system, to the judicial system. I paid my dues financially and in time. I have to deal with the consequences to that, but all I can do now is focus on my present and my future.

You were told that your DUI history and background might come up during this race?

Yeah. A friend told me that. I committed those mistakes and I take responsibility for my actions, but I figured I have something much more to offer than my past to people for that not to be a main focus.

Why not be fully transparent about the charges to the people you might represent?

I didn’t want to throw it out there because I was still working on a way to explain it. So when I got the phone call [from another news outlet], it wasn’t an in-person interview, it was a phone call, somebody asking me all these thousands of questions, I pulled my defense up. And maybe that was bad on my part, for putting my defense up, but I was ready to talk about it. It was just the way that this whole situation exploded. I wasn’t quite ready to respond. So I put up my defense and it was more out of, I guess you can say, the way I was being asked out of anger that I responded rather than being calm and knowing how to respond to that situation.

So you have four DUIs?

Yeah. I have four DUIs. Not all alcohol-related, but I have four DUIs. I did my time for all of them.

You said they’re not all alcohol-related. What are the other ones for?

I guess you can say some are drug-related or what was considered drugs back then.

What drugs were involved?

Marijuana and alcohol. It was those reasons I got convicted for DUIs.


Elia Salinas has lived in Hollister 24 years. She has been in the legal field for over 30 years, most recently consulting in the cannabis industry.

Though she is new to politics, she has consistently attended City Council meetings for almost three years.

Salinas said she is the only candidate instrumental in bringing new businesses and revenue into the city. She added that those businesses have employed about 50 local residents and expects more hirings in the near future.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for City Council?

SALINAS: I have attended approximately 80 percent of council meetings for the last three years and found myself wanting to be a logical ethical voice for my community.

What issues are most important to the district?

Traffic and new business development to reduce commuting. Affordable housing.

Are there issues you feel are important to your district that the public may not know about?

Homeless living in parked vehicles on residential and commercial streets.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

1. Affordable housing.  

2. Homeless living in parked vehicles on residential and commercial streets.

How do you plan to address them?

1. Make it appealing to developers to include apartments, condos, townhomes under different fee structure than the current fees.           

2. Request enforcement of municipal code.

How do you intend to communicate and stay in touch with the constituents you’d represent?

Personally and phone accessible.

Would you consider writing opinion articles for BenitoLink from your position as an elected representative?


What is the role of local government?

To approve or deny ordinances, businesses and/or expenditures of city revenue for the benefit of the community.


Honor Spencer moved to Hollister 23 years ago when her husband, who past away last year, wanted to move back home.

She has worked at San Benito High School as a campus supervisor for 20 years. Spencer said she has been the president of Chapter 173 of the California School Employees Association for two years. She was also elected to the Sunnyslope Water District Board of Directors in 2016 and has been a Juvenile Justice Commissioner of San Benito County for 11 years.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for City Council?

SPENCER: We need to keep Hollister and my district moving forward.

What Issues are most important to the district?  

The issues that are facing Hollister are important to all four districts, not just mine. The community wants answers for roads, businesses, growth, and our youth. As a unified City Council we can address all the issues and come to an equitable solution that would benefit Hollister.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

As I said earlier, all districts are facing the same problems. We all need to work together to come up with a solution that will benefit all districts and the city of Hollister. If Hollister thrives, so do us all.  

How do you intend to communicate and stay in touch with the constituents you’d represent?

I would have an open door policy and anyone that wants to talk can call me. My cellphone number will be available.

Would you consider writing opinion articles for BenitoLink from your position as an elected representative?

As for writing an opinion article I am not sure.

What is the role of local government?

Local government runs our city utilities, library, fire departments, parks, local law enforcement and many other areas of our everyday lives.



Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.