Xiong won't take council re-election for granted

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The race for Fresno City Council District 1 matches an incumbent who won election in a runoff four years ago against a candidate who finished dead last in a seven-candidate contest for the same post eight years earlier.

Blong Xiong is the first Hmong council member in the city that has California's largest Hmong population. Lawrence Cano has been bankrupt and, he says, at one point homeless since losing his last council race in 1998.

Xiong is sitting on a campaign treasury that held more than $19,000 when the last reporting period ended March 17. Cano filed paperwork exempting him from reporting if he pledged to raise and spend less than $1,000.

Cano also finished last in 1996 when he was one of eight candidates running for mayor. Yet Xiong insists he's not taking his re-election for granted. "I have an opponent," Xiong said. "I can't be concerned whether he's been successful or not. I'm running a campaign."

Xiong says he is running on the record of his first term on the council -- a melange of street improvements and pothole repairs, neighborhood cleanups and park openings. A plan for landscaping and other upgrades in the heart of the Tower District is near the top of his list of achievements, he said.

As to some blots on the council's recent record -- the failed loan guarantees for the Fresno Metropolitan Museum and the Granite Park development, as well as the city's worsening budget problems -- Xiong claims credit for working on the fixes but deflects blame for creating the problems, some of which took shape before his election.

"I've been very clear with our residents," he said. "Those are problems that I've inherited but I haven't run from them."

Cano traces his interest in politics to what he terms his unjust 1994 firing by a Clovis employer.

He ran for mayor two years later and lost, making his biggest news when he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of drunken driving. Two years later, he ran for council and lost again.

Then he moved to Sacramento, where he filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2006 and earlier was, he said, for a time homeless.

"I ended up on a bench," he said. "I've rebuilt my life."

He offers few specifics on his plans if he wins election and said he has sought and received no endorsements. But he calls himself "a positive person" who is now offering his services to the community.

"I told myself it's time for me to give back to Fresno and help them out with my ideas," he said.


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