After years of no turnover, the Clovis City Council will finally welcome two new members to its chamber.
Vong Mouanoutoua and Drew Bessinger won the seats previously held by now-Supervisor Nathan Magsig and former Council member Harry Armstrong. Longtime Council member Lynne Ashbeck was reelected Tuesday night as well.
Clovis, which hasn’t seen an election for Council in multiple cycles, faced a unique ballot in 2017. Clovis, which runs at-large elections for Council, had two classes of seats up for election: the typical four-year term (held previously by Ashbeck and Magsig) and a special two-year term (taking over for the retiring Armstrong).
Ultimately, Ashbeck and Mouanoutoua were the only candidates for the four-year term and won outright. The two-year term proved to the ultimate contest on Tuesday.
Bessinger, a former Clovis Police captain and former interim Kingsburg Police chief, squared off against health care executive Paul Soares.
From the outset, Soares established a supremacy in the endorsement and finance race. The health care exec racked up endorsements from some key corners, including the Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Association. Most notable, however, was that the Clovis Police Officers Association opted to snub their old brother in blue, Bessinger, and back Soares for the seat.
Soares also managed to attract major donors from Fresno and Clovis, including Granville Homes chief Darius Assemi, and established a sizable war chest for the short-calendar race. The financing enabled Soares to outpace Bessinger in the battle for voters’ mailboxes.
Bessinger, largely outmatched in finances and endorsements, stuck to a three-prong campaign pitch focused on his police service to the City of Clovis, his military service, and the endorsement of Sheriff Margaret Mims.
Mims, who regularly ranks among the most popular officials in Fresno County, may have proved to be the ultimate difference maker in a low turnout race where both men were relatively unknown to voters.
In the end, the three-point stance managed to guide Bessinger toward a upset landslide, outpacing Soares by a margin of nearly 39 points.
Bessinger now faces the prospect of running for reelection in March 2019 for a full four-year term, along with Council members Bob Whalen and Jose Flores.