Nearly 100 residents came to the church to hear candidates before the June 7 election. Photo by John Chadwell.

Nearly 100 people attended a political forum held May 31 at Christ Fellowship Church in Hollister. Every candidate for local offices was invited, but only 13 came to remind people why they were running.

Christ Fellowship Pastor Mike Hogg began the forum by encouraging the church members to “get involved in the political process and vote wisely.”

“Kudos to all you candidates for being willing to run,” Hogg said, then he started with a prayer thanking the candidates and their willingness to “sacrifice in order to run for office.”

Each candidate was given 90 seconds to introduce themselves and each was asked two questions. The candidates were civil with one another as each stayed on message without referring to the opponents, for the most part. The closest to contentiousness came between the two candidates for the District Attorney’s office, incumbent Candice Hooper and challenger Joel Buckingham over claims and counterclaims on the number of first-degree murder cases each had tried.

In addition to Hooper and Buckingham, the candidates who attended included Eric Taylor and Juan Guevara for sheriff; Mark Starritt, Elizabeth Zepeda Gonzalez, and Sandy Patterson-Jamarck, running for county supervisor, district 1; Mindy Johnson Sotelo and Eddie Alfaro running for county supervisor, district 3; Tony Joseph Avilla Sr. and Elia Salinas, running for county supervisor, district 4; Peter Hernandez, running for 18th Congressional District; and Stephany Castro, running for State Assembly, 29th District. Also present, but not included in the forum were Robert Bernosky, running for secretary of state and Shawn Collins, running for governor. 

While most stayed clear of overtly religious messages there were a couple of references to being guided by their religious beliefs, Patterson-Jamarck and Avilla supported the raising of the Christian flag in front of city hall and reminding the council there was nothing in the Constitution about the separation of church and state. More than one candidate, though, referenced a Bible verse posted on a wall that quoted Romans 12: 17-18: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Pastor Brett Snow from Calvary Baptist Church closed the forum by inviting the audience to stay and meet the candidates. “Candidates, you’re almost there,” he joked.

Ballots are out and being mailed in. For voter information contact the San Benito County Elections Department.

As of 4 p.m. June 1, 10.24% of ballots have been returned.

The Drop Box Locations are:

  • Elections Department @Winn Alley between our office & the library
  • Hollister Super on 4th St.
  • Community Food Bank on San Felipe Rd.
  • Ridgemark Office Parking lot
  • Fire Station #2 off Valley View Rd.
  • Windmill Shopping Center in San Juan Bautista

Vote Center locations are:

  • San Juan Bautista Community Center
  • Elections Department, Room 101
  • California National Guard Armory
  • St. Benedict Catholic Church


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John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...