Osvaldo Sotelo speaks about key issues facing the city of Santa Maria as he launches his campaign for the City Council District 1 seat.
Osvaldo Sotelo speaks about key issues facing the city of Santa Maria as he launches his campaign for the City Council District 1 seat. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The race for the Santa Maria City Council got off to an early start Monday when the first candidate for the new northwest district tossed his hat in the ring. 

Surrounded by family and friends Monday at Oakley Park, Osvaldo Sotelo, 28, launched his campaign for the District 1 seat to represent the northwest neighborhoods.

He said growing up as the son of immigrant farmworkers who achieved their dream of purchasing a home only to lose it in the housing crisis spurred his focus on affordable housing. 

“In Santa Maria, homelessness and the housing crisis are both critical problems and they affect families with children throughout our city,” Sotelo said. 

“I’m running for City Council because we must embrace bold and innovative solutions to solve the housing crisis,” Sotelo added. 

For example, landlords should be required to offer long-term leases to tenants, he said, contending it would reduce unfavorable evictions. 

Additionally, he called for a rent stabilization ordinance and tenant relocation assistance to reduce homelessness. 

He also said he supported an inclusionary housing ordinance to require developers to designate some units as affordable. 

With rental rates rising faster than wages over the past five years, Sotelo said he supports bringing living-wage jobs to the community. 

He said he also wants to expand educational and leadership opportunities for youths.

Sotelo is employed as a workforce services supervisor for Goodwill Industries of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. 

Due to his job, he sees the difficulty youths have in finding jobs and other opportunities to succeed, he added.

Sotelo said he launched his campaign now so people would know about his candidacy.

“I am heavily involved in the community and I really want people to know that this is why I’m running,” said Sotelo, who touts himself as born and raised in Santa Maria.

Supporters include Councilwoman Gloria Soto, who represents District 3, the city’s southwest section. 

“When I think about the world today, and hearing the struggles of everybody here, it reminds me of the importance of electing the right official into office,” she said. 

“We need representatives who understand our community’s unique issues, who have clear values and who will stand up and fight for under-represented communities,” she said. “Osvaldo Sotelo is that candidate.”

Sotelo graduated from Pioneer Valley High School in 2009 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from California State University, Los Angeles, in 2015. 

He pursued his master’s degree in public administration from California State University, Northridge, a year later.

Sotelo will seek to become first directly elected council member for District 1, an area without current representation.

A would-be candidate, Luz Maria Cabral, announced on her Facebook page, “Luz Maria Cabral for District 1” that she had decided against seeking the seat, adding she would back Sotelo.

At least one other candidate reportedly also intends to run for the District 1 seat.

The council has switched from at-large elections to district-based voting, meaning four of the members are elected by voters in a quadrant of the city while the mayor continues to be elected by voters throughout the city.

Seats up for grabs this year are held by Councilmen Mike Cordero and Michael Moats, who were both elected by the city’s final at-large voting in 2016.

However, Moats, a dermatologist, lives in what is now District 3 so he can’t run for another term this year, leaving District 1 without an incumbent.

Despite having two years left on his at-large term, Moats ran for the seat in 2018 in an attempt to extend his time on the council. However, he lost to Soto.

Cordero, a retired police lieutenant, represents District 2, the northeast segment of the city. 

Election Day is Nov. 3, when voters also will pick a president and fill numerous other jobs. The filing period for City Council and other local races for the general election will open in mid-July.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.