The secretary for a Santa Barbara organization that’s been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center is among three newcomers running for a seat on the Paso Robles City Council.
Michael Rivera, secretary for Californians for Population Stabilization, and two others will join three incumbents in the November election.
The race for mayor will involve two current council members — Mayor Steve Martin and Councilman Jim Reed.
Four candidates — including incumbent Councilman John Hamon — will compete for two City Council seats.
Michael Rivera, City Council
Rivera is a small-business owner who’s been a fixture of the public comment portion of Paso Robles government meetings.
He currently serves as secretary for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), a Santa Barbara-based organization that was classified as a hate group in 2017 by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
According to its website, the organization “works to formulate and advance policies and programs designed to stabilize the population of California, the U.S. and the world at levels which will preserve the environment and a good quality of life for all.”
The group also advocates eliminating birthright citizenship, ending chain migration and slowing legal immigration.
Rivera said he’s proud to be part of CAPS, and is a patriot who loves his country.
“We have no affiliation with any hateful things,” he said. “Everything we put out is factually based.”
In a candidate statement, Rivera said he’s running for office because “our city is at a crossroads.”
“Planning and development, housing, head of household jobs, education for our young people and ensuring the needs of our citizens are at the top my list and not ‘special interests,’” he wrote.
Rivera, who was previously a Santa Maria Valley resident, said he’s served as chairman of the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Commission, the Guadalupe Planning Commission and the Santa Barbara County Private Industry Council.
Maria Elena Garcia, City Council
Garcia works as a Walmart pharmacy technician and May Kay Cosmetics saleswoman. She helped found the Hispanic Business Association in 2011 and serves on the Paso Robles Library board of trustees.
Garcia said she became interested in running for office through her interactions with residents at her job and volunteer work.
“I started realizing that maybe we need a new voice,” she said.
Garcia wants to improve public safety, economic development and residents’ quality of life.
“I want to be able to represent the whole community,” she said.
Andy Pekema, City Council
Pekema, who recently moved to Paso Robles from Los Angeles, is a small-business owner who’s running to fix the city’s streets.
“I’m trying to improve our roads, because a lot of them in Paso seem to be crumbling,” he said.
Pekema also said he’d like to get a handle on the city’s spending and budget: “It seems like maybe our money isn’t being spent as wisely as it could be.”
John Hamon, City Council
Hamon, who owns Hamon Overhead Door Co. in Paso Robles and Santa Maria, has served on the council since 2006. He joined the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors District 1 race in 2016, but was eliminated during the primary election.
Hamon said he’s running for another term to “keep our city moving in the right direction.” He said he brings 12 years of city government experience to the council, along with an important depth of knowledge.
“The fact is, none of them have any experience,” Hamon said of the other candidates. “There aren’t any incumbents.”
Jim Reed, mayor
Reed, who was elected to the City Council in 2014, could not be reached for comment.