Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Outcome of local races still uncertain

Measure P, 19th Senatorial District, 37th Assembly District hinge on abesentee ballots

By Daryl Kelley

Ojai voters split their vote Tuesday in the race for two seats on the City Council, apparently giving challenger Betsy Clapp a spot on the council and probably returning Mayor Sue Horgan for a third full term on the council.
But those results are preliminary, and perhaps one-third of the Ojai vote had not been counted by Thursday morning, because so many votes were cast as absentee ballots on Election Day, officials said.
Meanwhile, the fate of a school parcel tax also still rides on absentee ballots, while two incumbents were returned to the board of the Ojai Valley's largest water district.
Two state legislative races remained close Thursday, with Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson leading Republican Tony Strickland by about 100 votes for a state Senate seat and Republican Assemblywoman Audra Strickland ahead of civics teacher Ferial Masry, the Democratic challenger, by a few thousand votes.
Initial results also showed that Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, easily won a 12th term in Congress, despite a strong Democratic vote nationwide. He defeated Marta Jorgensen, a former nurse and teacher from Solvang.
Countywide, at least 86,000 late absentee and provisional ballots were still to be counted Thursday morning, election officials said.
And, in Ojai, City Clerk Carlon Strobel said she wouldn't be comfortable predicting any close race because so many voters made their choices on absentee ballots on Election Day or mailed them late in the process.
She said she had expected at least a 72 percent turnout of the city's 5,089 registered voters, but votes from only about 46 percent had been counted by Thursday morning. That means that perhaps 2,700 votes for council had not been counted, while 4,648 had been counted, Strobel said.
"People are holding onto their ballots and casting them on Election Day or a couple of days before," she said. "You can see a trend based on the votes so far, but I can't project winners based on 46 percent (of registered voters)."
About 64 percent of Ojai's registered voters turned out in fall 2006 for congressional elections, and Strobel said she thinks that increased to at least 72 percent in this presidential election.
For the Ojai council, Clapp, who ran on a platform of change, had received 1,275 votes, or 27.43 percent, to head the five-person field. Horgan, who stressed the accomplishments of the current council, had pulled 1,057 votes, 22.74 percent, to place second. Former Mayor Suza Francina, was third with 969 votes, 20.85 percent, while incumbent Councilperson Rae Hanstad had placed fourth with 790 votes, or 17 percent of ballots cast. Recreation Commissioner Mike Lenehan had 536 votes, 11.53 percent.
Election officials had to report to the state by 5 p.m. Thursday how many votes were cast in Ventura County and how many were yet to be counted. While updated counting of absentee and provisional ballots will be posted on the county registrar of voters' web site promptly, semi-final results will not be known for a couple of weeks and final results don't have to be delivered to the state for 28 days after the Nov. 4 election.
Two years ago, it took nearly a month for City Council results to be finalized, and a 76-vote margin decided one council seat. That margin, however, remained about the same from Election Day until the final tally was released, so there was no surprise.
On Tuesday, the separation between council candidates was greater, although Francina trailed Horgan by just 88 votes for the second available council seat.
Indeed, Horgan, first appointed to the council in 1999, was cautious about saying too much Wednesday morning.
"I'm honored to be able to serve another term," she said. "I'm just trying to digest it all."
She said she'd have more to say about her goals in the new term once the results are final.
Francina said she still hopes to win the second council seat: "I'm delighted that Betsy Clapp is in the lead and I'm hoping to catch up. Sue is 88 votes ahead of me, (so) anything is possible. It's in the hands of fate! … If the outcome is still the same, I sincerely congratulate both Sue and Betsy."
Clapp, a small business owner who ran with backing from environmentalists and a Chamber of Commerce endorsement, said she feels she's been handed a mandate for change, but needs the cooperation of the rest of the council to accomplish her goals.
"My feeling now is that I have a responsibility to bring the change people said they wanted and need," she said the morning after her victory. "That is to make Ojai an economically strong and environmentally sustainable community. But I'm only one vote, and I hope the City Council will join me to move forward as quickly as possible. It takes three votes to make these changes."
Among Clapp's primary goals, she said, is to create citizen committees to oversee budget, police and water issues, and also to form a valleywide recreation district.
She said she also wants the council to work harder to "market" Ojai as a tourist destination, "to keep ourselves strong in frightening economic times."
Clapp said a key issue in the months to come is what is to happen to property owned by the Ojai Unified School District at its district headquarters on Ojai Avenue at Montgomery Street.
Hanstad, a consultant on drug issues and a council member since 2000, said she was disappointed not to receive a third term.
"My heartfelt congratulations to Sue and Betsy," Hanstad said. "Clearly, there was a lot of interest in Betsy's message for change."
Hanstad, a longtime community volunteer before she won a council seat, said she will now "take a sabbatical" from public life.
In other local election results Tuesday, Ojai school officials were digesting a razor-thin, 87-vote loss of the ballot measure to establish a small parcel tax to support the school district. In unofficial results, Measure P received 65.42 percent of 7,418 ballots cast, but a two-thirds super majority was required to enact the new property tax.
On the Casitas Municipal Water board, directors Jim Word and Pete Kaiser were re-elected, with Ventura-based Word getting nearly 82 percent of the vote to defeat salesperson David Norrdin. Kaiser won in the division representing Oak View and Mira Monte by defeating perennial candidate Jeff Ketelsen by an almost 2-1 margin.
Kaiser also was returned to the board of the Ojai Valley Sanitary District, easily defeating Ketelsen and a third candidate, Frank McNerney.
Incumbent William Stone was apparently defeated by state licensed contractor George Galgas for a second sanitary board seat. But Galgas led Stone by only five votes, 470 to 465, in the initial count.
On the Ojai Valley MAC, challenger Gerald Kaplan defeated incumbent Alan Saltzman, with Kaplan getting nearly 56 percent of the vote.
For the Meiners Oaks Water board, incumbents James Barrett was re-elected with about 38 percent of ballots. But a second incumbent, Karol Ballantine, was knocked off by retired business owner Norm Davis. Davis got about 36 percent of ballots, while Ballantine got 25 percent.


Bunni said...

I'm just happy Suza won!!!

Anonymous said...

Suza didn't win

Anonymous said...

but she can be the mayor in YOUR world....