CATHEDRAL CITY – The race for the lone seat in District 4 is one of the most spirited – and likely the tightest — local races in the Coachella Valley and the top vote-getter takes it all.

There will be no runoff, said Tracey Martinez, deputy city clerk.

This is the first race in which residents are voting in the newly drawn districts, which was designed to encourage Latino candidates to seek office. In District 4, there are four Latinos seeking the seat. They are Sergio Espericueta, Ernesto Gutierrez, John A. Rivera, and Enrique “Rick” Saldivar.

District 4 includes Desert Princess Country Club, Outpost and the Dream Homes.

When the district maps were created based on the November 2014 Election and there were 3,658 registered voters in District 4, according to Martinez. A more current count was not immediately available from the Registrar of Voters due to the current election activities. Since the City Council race is nonpartisan, voters are neither asked nor required to disclose their party affiliation.

Mayor Stan Henry has endorsed Gutierrez while Mayor Pro Tem Greg Pettis, and Councilmembers John Aguilar and Shelley Kaplan have all endorsed John A. Rivera for District 4. Councilmember Mark Carnevale, who is seeking re-election in District 5, did not endorse in the race.

As the rhetoric heats up in the homestretch of the campaign and favorites emerge, Uken Report turned to each of the candidates with two questions. Espericueta did not respond.

Following are the two questions Uken Report posed and Rivera’s and Saldivar’s unedited responses.

Uken Report: Your race has really resonated with the community. Why do you think that is?

Gutierrez: I believe we are all running in this race because we want to make a difference in our community. For the first time, Cathedral City has been divided into districts. This allows the residents within a particular district to vote for whomever they feel will best represent them and their families. All candidates I believe have a chance to make a difference. I don’t know what the other candidate’s reasons for running are, but I do not have a personal agenda. What I truly want is for our residents’ voices to be heard and also to be fairly represented in our city. That is my number one priority. Many of our residents have expressed that they feel voiceless and that our district has been unrepresented for a very long time. It’s now time for us to work collaboratively with our community and assist everyone with their needs. This includes  our seniors, homeless, veterans, disabled and the LGBTQ community, all races and ethnicities must be fairly represented.

Rivera: The newly designated Districts have really drawn in voters like never before. Many have told me they’re feeling they’ll actually have a voice for the first time, whereas the past city wide council races paid little attention to some of the most neglected neighborhoods in the Dream Homes and areas of Outpost neighborhood. Even voters from the Desert Princess have personally told me this may well be the first time they’ll have a voice at City Council. Sadly there were some people I spoke with in the Dream Homes neighborhood that have already made plans to move because they’d had enough of years of neglect. But the overall majority of people I spoke with are truly hopeful and many I spoke with who hadn’t planned to vote said they would this time. It’s very exciting to be a part of this community wide awakening.

Saldivar: We are local and that resonates with the public; some of us have been here since the Drive-In Theater was up and running on Ramon Road, which was a long, long, time ago. The community of District 4 will have a councilman who will actually live in the very vicinity that they represent, so it’s exciting. Then you add that there are four candidates running in this race so that makes it even more exciting because we each have a different platform.

Uken Report: How are you feeling one week from Election Day?

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Ernesto Gutierrez

Gutierrez: I’m really feeling great! I’m feeling the energy, and overwhelming support from our entire community.  It’s a beautiful feeling when I’m campaigning walking door to  door to have many of our residents tell me they have already voted for me.  It’s a wave of support that I am experiencing. I’m so grateful and honored to receive their vote and also their support.  It’s a fabulous feeling!

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John A. Rivera

Rivera: Since there’s no polling at this level, I can only tell you what my opinion is based on what I’m hearing from voters at forums and the countless people I’ve spoken with door to door which has been very encouraging. I have to say I’ve really enjoyed these one-on-one conversations with so many people. Even more encouraging is finding out through these many one-on-one conversations that some of the candidates in District 4 don’t seem to know these people as well as they claim. Many have listened to what others have promised and they’re just not buying it when all they hear are promises, but no plan for making it work. I spent nearly an hour talking to one woman from the Dream Homes who was one of those skeptics and by the time we finished, she asked me to leave her a handful of my fliers so that she could share them with friends and neighbors. I spoke with several others who told me no one else had really taken the time to listen to what they had to say as I had with them.

At the last candidate forum this past Sunday, one of the candidates said, “You shouldn’t give people false hopes”. He’s absolutely right that you shouldn’t give people false hopes, but when you don’t even try then you’re just part of the problem. When you know what’s at stake and what might be lost at great pain due to inaction, you have an obligation to step up and help those you can so that they can in turn help others. One spark of inspiration can light up an entire community when there’s real path to realizing the American Dream. Let’s all dream of what we can accomplish together and then let’s make it happen! So yes, I think I have an excellent chance of winning!

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Enrique “Rick” Saldivar

Saldivar: One week away from election and I feel very energized and optimistic! I have done all that I needed to do as a novice in running a campaign to be elected to City Council. I have knocked on doors, put up signs, attended forums, passed out door hangers, posted on social media, and soon will be sending out mailers. I have won the heart and support of many in District 4 and beyond. I’m also optimistic that our residents have done their fair share in doing their homework on all of us. I’m praying and believing that my neighbors will vote for me, and no matter what the outcome, it has been an amazing and positive experience. #rick4district4