Aiming to make the deadline for Riverside County elections, the Wildomar City Council voted unanimously to appoint Dustin Nigg to represent District 2 instead of including him on the ballot, since he would be running unopposed.
The vote to approve the resolution was 4-0 with Nigg, who currently serves as the city’s mayor, recusing himself from the proceedings. The council held the vote during a special meeting Wednesday, Aug. 19, to meet the next day deadline set by the county to either include Nigg on the ballot or not.
Kenny Mayes, a candidate challenging councilmember Bridgette Moore in District 4, said in public comments that he thought Nigg should have to run for the seat, regardless of having no opponent.
“I think Dustin should have to run for election because of all the controversy with the cannabis decision,” Mayes said. “And then some of the decisions that he made dealing with the culvert situation, the marches downtown and wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. And I think that he needs to run for that seat to show how many citizens still support him. And if he gets less than 50%, then I think he should have to make a choice as to whether to stay or leave. But I think the citizens in that district should be able to make that decision.”
Acting city clerk Janet Morales read the staff report.
“Because Dustin Nigg is the only candidate that was nominated and qualified in District 2, the council has two options,” she said. “You can appoint Dustin to office to serve exactly as if he were elected or you can continue with the election in that district. Should the council appoint Dustin, then write-in candidates will not be accepted for District 2.”
Answering a question from councilmember Ben J. Benoit, Morales said the county said that not having the District 2 election on the ballot would save the city $15,000.
“That makes it an easy choice for me,” Benoit said.
“I guess if you were a big city, like Los Angeles, $15,000, doesn’t matter (and you would) put the name on the ballot anyway, but this is a foregone conclusion,” councilmember Joseph Morabito said.
Benoit also argued that Mayes’ point about whether Nigg being on the ballot would be a true indication of his district’s support or not.
“I’ll tell you my experience going down and looking at ballots at the county office, just as a way to monitor them, when you had that opportunity for other races, there are tons of ballots that get turned in, where the people voted for the president, wherever the senator is, maybe the assembly member, and then they just stopped voting,” Benoit said. “Whether or not they voted for a down-ticket race, like the city race versus whether or not that’s the only race they did not vote in, there’s no way to judge or qualify that that’s why they didn’t vote just in that one spot. It’s a bad metric to be looking at in my mind and it’s not true. It’s not accurate. In fact, someone might use that to generate negative publicity, even when there is none.”
Swanson agreed with Benoit.
“If there was one person or 10 people who disagreed with Dustin, somebody would run against him,” she said. “Someone would step forward and run. And that’s a real challenge around here is how do you even get somebody to run against you?”
The roll call vote was held, and the meeting was adjourned in one of the quickest meetings in the city’s history, just over nine minutes.
The council was scheduled to hold another special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, after press time, to discuss adopting a resolution authorizing the abatement of weeds declared to be a public nuisance, approve a professional services agreement for market research and temporarily modify the time for regular city council meetings conducted via video conferencing.
All meetings are currently held on Zoom.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.