Twenty-one days until the curtains close on a year-long political battle in the small town of Hughson, Calif. and City Councilman Ben Manley resigns.

Manley used his farewell speech to slam the proponents of a recall campaign against him and fellow councilmen Thomas Crowder and Doug Humphreys.

Manley’s announcement of his resignation caught everyone off guard Monday night in the council chambers. Supporters and proponents alike were left shocked and off balance. Manley has long disputed the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury’s claim that he was a part of a conspiracy to fire former City Manger Joe Donabed — a grand jury finding that set off a recall campaign that now enters its final stage.  

Manley resigned effective immediately, citing “physical and continued attacks my wife and I have suffered emotionally and physically” during the recall effort.

Manley went on record after the conclusion of Monday Night’s special Hughson City Council meeting.

“This entire cover-up has been created by a small handful of people who want to run the community,” he said. “I am a strong Christian man, and the accusations against me are not true. I did not commit any violation.”

Immediately, the pro-recall movement countered Manley’s parting shot from go-to spokesperson Josh Whitfield.

“Mr. Manley’s resignation is both regrettable and irresponsible. If Mr. Manley had resigned before the recall election, as he was asked to do on multiple occasions, he could have saved Hughson taxpayers both time and money. Instead we all have been given another example of reckless leadership by one of our opponents. His resignation will hold no consequence for our campaign. Mr. Manley’s name will still be on the ballot, and Mr. Manley still needs a replacement. We would rather see an election, rather then an appointment fill Mr. Manley’s seat. We look forward to hearing the voice of all Hughson voters on Aug. 24.”

The pro-recall campaign is increasingly optimistic as the special recall election on Aug. 24 nears.  Their campaign is well funded, energized and organized. ‘Yes on Recall’ signs dominate Hughson’s streets and there seems to be little public support for the Councilmen under recall. Jeramy Young and Jill Silva (two of the Pro-Recall Group’s endorsed candidates) also have yard signs that clearly dominate Hughson’s landscape.

From the beginning of the recall effort, the pro-recall movement seems to have been several steps ahead in both campaign strategy and grassroots efforts. Thus far, the proponents of the recall effort have waged a near flawless campaign.  This is in comparison to a disheartened and disorganized counter recall effort.

Whitfield attempted to downplay the recall’s success thus far saying, “the decision rests with the people of Hughson, nothing is final until they go to the ballot box. Our campaign ends when the polls close and not until then. We owe it to the people of Hughson and the 1,000 people who signed the recall petition to see this election through to the end.”

Opponents of the Recall effort are sure to continue their attempts to portray the recall effort as “Good ol’ Boy” politics. An accusation recall proponents says is incredulous due to the fact that it is Crowder who has been in and out of power in Hughson for over a decade.

The battle for Hughson’s voters has turned personal as only small-town politics can get. Emotions and tensions are high as accusations of sign theft and voter intimidation fly. With absentee ballots out to Hughson voters and the election entering its final days, all eyes turn to the smallest City in Stanislaus County in a battle over ethics. A battle that is being closely watched by Stanislaus County residents and politicians alike. Stanislaus has been plagued by ethical controversy at the local level for the past couple of years. Riverbank Councilman Jesse James White has been charged with felony drug possession and is facing a possible recall. There have been recent recall attempts in Patterson.

The only certain thing here in Hughson is the fatigue of political controversy.  A fatigue that is certain to continue as Hughson voters will have no time to rest with the general election right around the corner.