"It's important to me to help put this city back on its feet," said candidate Ana Maria Quintana. "I live here."
The 17 candidates are vying for five seats on a city council faced with daunting financial problems and a tarnished image of scandal and corruption.
An auditor recently recommended major budget cuts, including slashing salaries and benefits of city employees, layoffs and most controversially the possibility of shutting down the Bell Police Department.
However, the tone of the night was positive, a far cry from last year when eight city officials were arrested in a corruption case and the alleged misappropriation of $5.5 million in public funds.
"If I'm elected or not elected, we're all winners because we've taken them out of the city," said candidate Guillermo Aguilar.