Political Notes: Gay Tracy councilman Arriola mounts 2nd mayoral bid

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday May 13, 2024
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Dan Arriola, center, was surrounded by supporters in front of Tracy City Hall last month when he kicked off his mayoral campaign. Photo: Courtesy the candidate
Dan Arriola, center, was surrounded by supporters in front of Tracy City Hall last month when he kicked off his mayoral campaign. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

Four years after falling short in his bid to be his city's mayor, gay Tracy City Councilmember Dan Tavares Arriola is again seeking election as leader of the San Joaquin County town he has called home for the majority of his life. He is one of two current councilmembers who have already launched mayoral campaigns.

A deputy district attorney for San Joaquin County, Arriola is running for mayor on the November 5 ballot against fellow Councilmember Eleassia Davis, who was elected four years ago to her seat. Since 2022, Davis has served as mayor pro tempore.

The mayor's seat on the five-person council is once again open this year, as Mayor Nancy Young will be termed out of office. Mayors in Tracy can only serve two two-year terms, and Young has solely endorsed Arriola to succeed her.

"The only person ever to beat me has been Mayor Nancy Young, and I have her sole endorsement for this seat," Arriola noted to the Bay Area Reporter during a May 10 phone interview.

Unlike four years ago, when the COVID pandemic crimped in-person campaign events and get-out-the-vote efforts, Arriola doesn't expect to face the same roadblocks this year in talking to voters and getting his message out.

"I definitely believe we will have a lot more access to speaking with voters on the ground unlike during COVID," said Arriola, 34, who was reelected to a four-year term on the council in 2022.

In that race, he came in first with the highest number of votes of any council candidate that November.

"We did it by having a really strong ground game and a really strong communication strategy," said Arriola. "We are looking to replicate our successes from my last city council race."

Addressing the need for more housing, especially homes affordable to the middle class, and improving transit options for residents are among Arriola's top priorities he has laid out as part of his mayoral campaign. In particular, he wants to see a connection in Tracy between the planned ValleyLink passenger rail service and the Bay Area's regional transit system BART's closest station in Pleasanton.

"Future-driven investments in infrastructure and economic development — alongside smart growth strategies to oppose urban sprawl — will be fundamental to the future success of our city," contends Arriola on his website. "Bringing the ValleyLink light-rail system and investing in green renewable energy technology are key components for this success!"

Arriola first won election to a council seat in 2018, making the then 29-year-old Tracy's first millennial and first LGBTQ councilmember. Two years prior he had been elected to the city's school board.

As the B.A.R. noted in a story about his 2020 mayoral campaign, Arriola was outed just days prior to the school board election by a local blogger who posted photos of Arriola at Los Angeles Pride under a headline asking how he could "represent Tracy family values." He won by more than 2,000 votes.

This year, his partner of two years, Charlie Jones, is running in November for a school board seat in the East Bay city of Pleasanton where he lives. Jones works as a public school teacher in Hayward.

Arriola kicked off his mayoral bid April 20 in front of Tracy City Hall surrounded by dozens of supporters. He is reusing the tagline of "A NEW GENERATION OF LEADERSHIP!" that he has employed since his first electoral bid eight years ago.

"The City of Tracy needs everyday citizens seated on the City Council to make decisions for our community," Arriola stated last month in officially announcing his candidacy. "As the demographic of our city changes, millennials and young professionals — the next generation of working class citizens in the community — deserve to be represented and have their voices heard on the City Council."

Born in San Jose to a white mother and Latino father, his parents divorced after Arriola was born, and his mother moved them briefly to Portugal. When he was 3 years old, they returned to Northern California and settled in Tracy where his father was living. His parents remarried and had a second son, now age 28, but divorced again in 2019.

After leaving to attend college at UCLA, where he was the political science valedictorian in 2011, and then law school at the University of Southern California, Arriola moved back to Tracy in 2014. He continues to rent an apartment because of the "astronomical" cost of housing in the city, though hopes to be able to buy a home once he pays off his student loans in late 2025.

Hired to the county DA's office in late 2015, Arriola served as its first community prosecutor, tasked with implementing "progressive prosecution" strategies for such issues as homelessness, human trafficking, neighborhood nuisances, and school truancy. For the past three years he has been one of the office's felony trial attorneys.

While on the City Council Arriola has championed various policy initiatives including opening the first city-run homeless shelter; legalizing commercial cannabis; approving the first affordable housing development in over 20 years; adopting a code of ethics for local elected officials; and providing residents with renewable energy options. He also helped balance the city's budget for the first time in a decade.

"As our city faces significant challenges, it is clear that there is still much work to be done," stated Arriola. "I am running for Mayor of Tracy to restore trust in local government, to ensure integrity in City Hall, and get the City of Tracy back on track for success."

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