March Elections Sees Biggest Pool of Candidates in Decades

L-R: Lynne Ashbeck, Vong Mouanoutoua, Diane Pierce, Herman Nagra, and Noha Elbaz.

After an exhausting election season this past November many have decided to take a break from politics and relax. However, politics don’t stop and others like the five candidates in the Clovis city council race have already started their campaigns.

Two seats will be up for grabs in the Clovis municipal election of March 2021 and for the first time in a long time, there are five candidates running for the two city council seats.

The two incumbents running for the seats are Lynne Ashbeck and Vong Mouanoutoua. Ashbeck has been part of city council since 2001 and Mouanoutoua is the newest council member in the chambers holding that seat since 2017. They will be running against three other residents of Clovis: Diane Pearce, Noha Elbaz and Herman Nagra.

This election will be different for all the candidates, because the winners will not serve a full four year term, but rather a shorter term due to the elections moving from odd years to even years. The winners of the seats will be back for re-election in November of 2024 instead of in March of 2025.

City council elections have always been at-large elections, however this might be one of the last elections to do that. The city council voted last November to see if there was public interest in district based elections based on 2020 census data.

The two councilmembers ran unopposed in the last election.

This March election, the field is crowded with more candidates running than in the past two decades. No incumbents have lost a race for Clovis city council since the mid 90s, the only way for a new councilmember to get a seat was for that seat to be vacated.

The incumbents

Ashbeck has been part of city council for almost 20 years, she has been Mayor of the city of Clovis in two terms and currently is the senior vice president of community engagement and population wellness for Valley Children’s Healthcare.

Ashbeck believes that more candidates in this race is a good thing because that is the heart of democracy and people can see the views of incumbents against those of newcomers.

She mentioned that she has the most experience, the most skills, the longest and best track record and that she is not partisan. That’s what sets her apart from the other candidates. Ashbeck said that Clovis has done a great job of growing and not forgetting their history, heritage and values and that to the people of Clovis that matters.

“I lead from what’s good for Clovis, not what’s good for me or not what’s good for a particular agenda and I do think that is a really important difference,” Ashbeck said. “I am really committed to upholding the values that Clovis has…I offer leadership more than I offer rhetoric and I think right now we need that as a community.”

Mouanoutoua has been in the city council since 2017 and will be running his first re-election campaign. He is the director of external relations and project development at Community Medical Centers and he is also a lecturer at Fresno State.

Mouanoutoua said that his first four years in the city council has taught him a lot about how to be a more effective leader and that it takes a while to really learn the inner workings of the city. He mentioned that he is encouraged by the amount of candidates in the race, because it keeps incumbents sharp and it also promotes different perspectives and viewpoints.

“I would love the opportunity again to serve and to be able to give back to the community that made me who I am,” Mouanoutoua said. “I think that I still have a lot to give and will continue to listen to people to also provide their perspective in shaping policy for the city.”

The opponents

Pearce is a local business woman who has been involved in politics and has worked for the Fresno County Civil Service Commission. She has also been a political commentator in radio and TV shows around the Central Valley.

Pearce said that she is running for office because it would be good to have a voice from the business community in the city council, because none of the current representatives are actual business owners and it would be good to have a different perspective in the decision making process. She also mentioned that she wants to maintain local control and keep Sacramento out of local policies.

“I think it is going to take a little more tough leadership to preserve the great things that have been built and to continue to build on them in the way the Clovis community expects and deserves,” Pearce said. “I look forward to an opportunity to share with them (Clovis community) what my thoughts are and hear from them and see that we are on the same page moving forward for what we want in our community.”

Nagra is also a local business owner who has a passion for politics and wants to better his community. He made headlines last year when he was attacked by an alleged shoplifter in one of his businesses.

Nagra wants to use his business knowledge to help the city save money and be more effective with their money. He wants to make Clovis better, more modern and he wants to keep business from leaving the city. Nagra believes that it is time for people with new ideas and new passions to come into city council and change things up.

“I’m doing this to improve the city I live in and in the future, when I do have children, I want them to be proud of their city,” Nagra said. “I’m up for this challenge, I know I have good ideas, I know i’m able to run a business very well and I know i’ll be able to run Clovis very well.”

Elbaz is a former school administrator who in last November ran for Clovis School District Council, but came in second to Hugh Awtrey. Elbaz is looking to bring a new voice and a new perspective to the city council.

Elbaz wants to work with small businesses especially during these hard times and also help the public health in the community. She mentioned that she is looking forward to engaging with the community and to help serve the community regardless of the outcome of the race.

Elbaz said that once the pandemic is over there will be a need to bring more businesses into Clovis and that could help with bringing in more revenue for educational and recreational facilities.

“I think it is incredibly important that our city council is representative of our city as a whole,” Elbaz said. “I think (diversity) is really helpful in ensuring that all of our community feels like they have a seat at the table and that their voices are heard.”

Jorge Rodriguez
Jorge Rodriguez has a passion for journalism and wants to bring the community information and great stories. After high school Jorge joined the U.S. Army and while in active duty he was deployed twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While in college he worked for the Fresno City College Rampage and the Fresno State Collegian newspapers. He graduated from Fresno State in 2019 with a degree in print journalism.