WALNUT CREEK -- Voters here apparently will not see a City Council race this November, the city's first uncontested race since 2002.
For a brief moment this week it looked as though three candidates would vie for the two open four-year seats when bar owner Matthew DeLima narrowly beat the 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline to file candidacy papers. But Thursday morning, county elections officers found that DeLima did not have the required 20 signatures of registered Walnut Creek voters, according to City Clerk Suzie Martinez.
This means that, by default, two-term Councilwoman Cindy Silva and retired attorney Rich Carlston -- who had already qualified -- will fill the two council seats. Mayor Kristina Lawson opted not to seek re-election after one term.
The City Council will hold a special meeting to decide whether to simply appoint Carlston and Silva and cancel the election -- which costs around $55,000 -- or hold the election, which would allow for write-in candidates, Martinez said.
But even DeLima, upset that he didn't qualify, said a write-in candidate would have virtually no chance.
He said Thursday he was shocked the signatures he provided did not meet criteria to qualify him for the ballot. DeLima took video of everyone he asked to sign for his campaign, and each said they were Walnut Creek voters, but out of the 27 he submitted, 15 of the signatures were not valid.
"I am not a politician," said DeLima, co-owner of Blu42 Sports Lounge downtown. "I asked the people and they said they were registered Walnut Creek voters; they don't know that they are on the outskirts (in unincorporated Walnut Creek) and it doesn't count. It's not right; it's not a fair system."
While DeLima may be new to the Walnut Creek political scene, he is no stranger to City Hall or to the City Council.
In 2013, the council revoked his appeal to allow his now-defunct Vice Ultra Lounge to serve alcohol later at night. Silva voted against him, and during those hearings he was accused of running a business where arrests for intoxication, assault, weapons and narcotics were occurring. Shortly after Vice closed down, DeLima reopened his business under a new name and with a new sports focus.
DeLima likely would have brought some spark to the campaign. He achieved some notoriety around town for documenting his issues with the Walnut Creek Police Department; he made a music video about how he was repeatedly pulled over and his car ticketed. The song is called "Used to Have a Car," sung to the tune of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car."
Having been told by many business owners they don't feel listened to by city leaders, DeLima thinks he could have won the election.
"I would have made some things happen," he said. "I would have been the most accessible city councilman ever. Small businesses gets trampled in Walnut Creek a lot of times, and I would have been here to listen. I have solutions for Walnut Creek that can make everybody happy."
DeLima says he plans to run in 2016 when there will be three seats up for election.
Carlston said he hopes DeLima does not get discouraged, and he plans to reach out to him. Carlston, a former attorney with Miller Starr Regalia, said he is thrilled to be Walnut Creek's newest council member.
"Our fiscal issues aren't going to go away without some work, and my whole platform is to make sure we maintain the quality of life we have in Walnut Creek," he said.
Carlston is a former Park, Recreation and Open Space Commission chairman, an 11-year member of the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce board (with time served as chairman) and a Walnut Creek Library Foundation board member.
This also means that Silva -- out of the country and unavailable for comment -- won't face a third election. In 2010, she faced brutal opposition from the city's police association, which actively campaigned against her.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617.