In a dramatic reversal, the third seat in last week’s close Walnut City Council election went to challenger Eric Ching, who edged out candidate John Saleeby by 32 votes Monday morning after hundreds of provisional and vote-by-mail ballots were tallied.
Incumbent Nancy Tragarz, who came in first place, retained her lead, ending up with nearly 25 percent of the vote. Incumbent Anthony “Tony” Cartagena held on to second place with 20 percent of the vote.
Ching grabbed the third seat despite trailing Saleeby by 51 votes after the initial vote count on election night, April 10. That night, Walnut City Clerk Teresa De Dios said the city had a high number of ballots left at polling places that had yet to be counted, placing Saleeby’s victory in jeopardy.
On Monday, the city counted 622 additional ballots and Ching gained 335 additional votes, creating an 83-vote swing to overtake Saleeby and capture the last seat. That seat was left open by Councilman Joaquin Lim, who decided not to run. Lim had thrown his support to Ching.
“I think this was a roller-coaster from the start to the end,” said a smiling Ching at the council chambers Monday after the final tally was revealed.
Ching was buoyed by the fact that most of the ballots left uncounted until Monday were from permanent absentee voters who dropped their ballots off either at City Hall or at Walnut polling places on the day of the election.
Voting by mail tends to be favored by Chinese-American voters and that benefited Ching, something he predicted last week. Even Saleeby agreed that was part of the reason why he lost.
Read more in Steve Scauzillo’s story ELECTION.