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First two candidates emerge in race for City Council’s Ward 2

Two City Council hopefuls filed to run for the Ward 2 seat which has been held for 15 years by Councilman Andy Melendrez, who announced last week that he will not run for a fifth term in the June 8 election. 

Both candidates, Tony Huerta and Aram Ayra, desired to campaign for the platform in response to what they separately called a lackluster effort to direct COVID-19 relief and recovery resources into Riverside’s Ward 2.  

Huerta, lifelong resident of Ward 2 and highschool soccer coach, said that while growing up in his community, he was able to see first hand how his neighborhood was affected by local leadership. “The whole pandemic shed light on exactly how we deliver resources to each area … Ward 2 has not been receiving equitable access to those resources,” Huerta said.  

Ayra, a graduate of University of California Riverside, said his role as a community health educator with the Riverside County Department of Public Health has given him an understanding of how the pandemic affects the community on the family level. 

“If you’re not working for 14 days and you’re the family’s sole breadwinner, the family needs something to get through that time period,” Ayra said. 

“Over the past year …  I was dealing with families who were out of food, were lacking critical resources, and who lived a block or two away from their council members. That lack of real action to meet material needs right now – That’s what motivated me to run,” he continued.

Seats for Wards 4 and 6 will also be on the ballot in June’s municipal election. Both Councilmembers Chuck Conder of Ward 4 and Jim Perry of Ward 6 intend to run for reelection. 

Melendrez, who was first elected to City Council in 2006, could not be reached by phone and did not reply to emails seeking comments.

Huerta said that should he win the seat, he wants to promote reinvestment in education and youth programs as well as more localized access to COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites. 

“When [COVID-19] first broke out, a lot of people could not reach those testing stations or resources,” Huerta said. “What’s going to happen as they distribute the vaccine? How are we going to get the vaccine distributed to the people that need it the most?” 

Ayra said he believes the council’s top priority should be accelerated distribution of resources to those affected by the pandemic. His platform will also revolve around post-pandemic economic recovery and investment in city infrastructure. “We have millions of dollars of Measure Z funds that we’re sitting on and our street repairs are going really badly,” Ayra said. “This is a reminder to locals that our local government is not fixing the things they need to fix.”

If elected, the winning candidate will serve a five-year term in office. A runoff election will be held November 2 in the event that no one candidate receives the majority of the vote from their Ward.