Eric Guerra gets the edge in District 6 special election

Eric Guerra campaigns door to door in Tahoe Park last month.
Eric Guerra campaigns door to door in Tahoe Park last month. jvillegas@ sacbee.com

Voters in District 6 are fortunate. They can’t go wrong in the special election to fill the vacant seat on the Sacramento City Council.

The two candidates – Eric Guerra and Bruce Pomer – are well-qualified. It’s a very close call, but we recommend Guerra, who will add vigor and a voice for underserved neighborhoods.

Mail ballots start going out Monday and must be returned by March 31. The polls are open April 7. It’s expected to be a low-turnout election, so the candidates are busy knocking on doors and making phone calls to reach those who will actually vote.

Pomer, 65, has more experience. He has lived in Sacramento nearly his entire life, the last 40 years in Sierra Oaks and Campus Commons. He served for five years on the city’s appointed Parks and Recreation Commission and for 20 years on the elected Los Rios Community College District board of trustees. Now retired from executive director of the Health Officers Association of California, he told The Bee’s editorial board that he can focus his time and energy on being a councilman.

He ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 1989 and 2004. This time, he boasts the endorsements of the district’s three most recent representatives: Kevin McCarty, who stepped down after 10 years when he won a state Assembly seat in November, current Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. Much of Sacramento’s old guard is in his corner, including former Mayors Heather Fargo and Anne Rudin.

Pomer pledges to bring a thoughtful but tough approach on city finances to a council that could certainly use it.

Guerra, 36, has an impressive résumé, too. He has served as a California State University trustee, and on the Sacramento County Planning Commission for five years, the last two as chairman. He was a fellow in the office of then-state Sen. Gil Cedillo of Los Angeles, and is a policy analyst for Assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco, a part-time job that Guerra says gives him the flexibility to be a councilman.

Guerra has the support of fellow county planning commissioners and six Sacramento City Unified School trustees. County Supervisor Phil Serna is a mentor.

What gives Guerra a slight edge is his undeniable passion to improve neighborhoods, making sure they share in Sacramento’s growth and prosperity. That’s crucial for a district and a city with still too many vacant lots, empty storefronts and residents struggling to make ends meet.

He honed his political skills in Tahoe Park, where he has lived for 18 years and where as neighborhood association president he aggressively lobbied during the city budget crunch to keep parks and pools open. He would be a valuable ally to Councilman Allen Warren – who has endorsed him and who represents Del Paso Heights and North Sacramento – to give the city’s blue-collar areas a strong voice on the council.

Guerra’s youth and energy would benefit the council, as would his background. Born in Mexico, he grew up in a migrant farmworker family in Esparto. Thanks to a federal program that helps migrant kids, he went to Sacramento State, became student body president and earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering and master’s degree in public policy.

While about 27 percent of Sacramento residents are Latino, only three Latinos have been elected to the council and none since former Mayor Joe Serna died in 1999.

Both candidates say that ethnicity is a factor in the campaign. It does matter, especially when the two candidates don’t differ much on the issues. They both opposed the city subsidy for the downtown arena and the “strong mayor” ballot measure, but support the independent redistricting commission and ethics code provisions that are being revived.

This is a diverse district, encompassing Little Saigon and traditionally white neighborhoods near Sacramento State. About 28 percent of residents are Latino. It would be fitting if its elected representative brings some diversity to the City Council.

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