Government / Politics

Public shows strong interest in BenitoLink/SBC Farm Bureau Election Forums

Nearly 200 people showed up at Hollister City Council Chambers to listen to candidates and hear about Measures A, B and C
May 3 Election Forum was held at Hollister City Council Chambers. Public attendance was so high, there was standing room only in the back with the lobby full and people waiting on the front steps.
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The community came out en mass Thursday night to attend the BenitoLink-Farm Bureau Election Forum at Hollister City Council Chambers. BenitoLink reporter, John Chadwell, who covered the event, estimated there were about 200 people trying to get in the chambers to watch the forum. Briefly, the back walls of the meeting room were lined with listeners, the lobby was jammed with candidates and their families and about 30 people were waiting on the front steps to get in.

BenitoLink will be publishing a thorough written report over this weekend with the highlights of the evening.

The entire forum was published live on Facebook the evening of May 3, and at the time of this news report, showed nearly 1,200 viewers.  “Great turnout, good ideas!” wrote Mary Schneider on Facebook about the forum.

All Candidates for Supervisor District 3, Supervisor District 4, State Assembly district 30 and Treasurer-Tax Collector were in attendance.  Sheriff-Coroner candidate Bill Hutchison and Judge of Superior Court, No.2 candidate Omar Rodriguez both canceled several hours before the event.

During the forum, Judge of Superior Court, No. 2 candidate Robert Michael Foley, a retired Superior Court judge for Santa Clara County announced he was removing himself from the race.

Over the last month, the public was invited to send questions to both BenitoLink and San Benito County Farm Bureau via email, notes, phone calls and Facebook comments. The joint committee took those suggestions into account among others and then selected the final questions for the event.

Kristina Chavez Wyatt, executive director of San Benito Business Council wrote on Facebook, “Thank you, BenitoLink and SBC Farm Bureau for your efforts!”

For a few moments, City Hall employees threatened to shut down the entire event due to an unexpectedly large crowd. The room capacity is 90 and there were concerns about fire safety. Fortunately, most of the over 25 candidates attending agreed to wait their turn in an adjacent meeting room, relieving some pressure on the room. Those late to arrive waited outside for guests and candidates to leave.

Short video clips are being edited by media partner CMAP-TV and will be published on BenitoLink in brief, watchable segments for each race and the measures early in the week of May 7. The video segments, expanded BenitoLink reporting and promotional materials were made possible by event sponsors: the Community Foundation for San Benito County, SBC Eyecare and Benito Valley Farm.


An informal survey was handed out to those attending. Only about 20% of people at the forum returned their surveys. The following is a compilation of the (relatively few) survey results.                                                                       

Which Candidate (s) Impressed You The Most? 


Number of answers/Percentage of answers

15 / 54%   Patricia Loe

8 / 29%   Richard Perez

4 / 14%   Peter Hernandez



1 / 4%     Bill Lipe

7 / 25%   Neil Kitchens

2 / 7%     Trina Coffman-Gomez

7 / 25%   Peter Leroe-Munez

14 / 50%  Robert Rivas



4 / 14%     Rob Bernosky

3 / 11%      Sandy Swint

10 / 36%    Jim Gillio

2 / 7%        Elia Salinas

6 / 21%      Jerry Muenzer



22/79% Darren Thompson

____ Bill Hutchison (Did not attend)



3 / 11%    Jamie De La Cruz

15 / 54%  Melinda Casillas



5 / 18%   Gregory Michael LaForge

____       Jose “Omar” Rodriguez (Did not attend)

1 / 4%     Robert Michael Foley

14 / 50%  Frances Henderson



14 / 50%   Anna Caballero   

4 / 14%     Roy Poythress


What Measure (s) Do You Support?

__18__  Measure A  Abandoned Vehicle Abatement Tax          64%

__15__  Measure B  Transient Occupancy Tax                          54%

__13__  Measure C Cannabis Tax                                             46%


Forum Feedback:  Comments as written

  • Excellent organization!  Too crowded.
  • Need a bigger venue.
  • Thank You!  This is very important to our Community
  • Fast-paced format – effective.
  • Need a larger venue!
  • Due to the great (huge) response of the community present perhaps could have an annx so the public could hear one candidate + see them via video perhaps in the Vet Hall or similar location.
  • I believe it unfair that the question of the ongoing investigation of the Treasure’s department in regard to school district monies as neither candidate would be able to comment on ongoing litigation.
  • Thank You for doing this!
  • Awesome Forum!  Great Turnout (overwhelming almost).  Next time try to reserve the SBHS Auditorium.  (More Seating)  Lots of smiley faces not included.
  • The Forum enabled me to make my decision on all candidates and Measurers.  Thank You.



Leslie David

Leslie David is a Bay Area independent reporter/producer and is a BenitoLink founding board member. She has produced for radio, television, newspaper and magazines in both California and Wyoming. She was with KRON-TV News in San Francisco as camera-woman, editor and field producer, where she won the Commonwealth Club's Thomas Storke Award with Linda Yee for their series on the Aids Epidemic. She started as a small market news reporter shooting her own 16mm film at KEYT-TV Santa Barbara. Leslie lives on a ranch with her family in San Benito County.