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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Election final, candidates seated 

Costa Mesa’s election results were stabilized and certified, ending the campaign in time for Thanksgiving.  The why’s of the voting will be debated for years, but the effects of the voting are just starting.

Results breakdown

The Anti’s – Genis, Stephens, and Weitzberg, were supported directly by the local advocacy group CM4RG and government employee unions, and less directly by organized labor PACs (to the tune of about half a million dollars). They won 41,469 votes or about 46.5% of the candidate votes. It should be noted that Weitzberg appeared to have been abandoned by both labor and CM4RG toward the end of the campaign.

Genis captured the most votes, running a “gray man” candidacy (didn't articulate substantial positions – just floated into office on name—and image -- recognition). Mensinger was second in vote count and Monahan third (155 votes ahead of Stephens). McCarthy was fourth, behind Stephens by 340 votes.

Mensinger, Monahan, and McCarthy (3M’s) garnered 46.6% of the votes. These three were probably supported indirectly to some extent by the OC Republican PAC, but it’s unlikely that the support approached a significant fraction of half a million dollars. Much of their campaigning involved voter contact, in “coffee and conversation” meetings and in walking the precincts. Slightly more votes with exponentially fewer dollars.

Proposed charter defeated

The coordinated effort to defeat a charter inimical to big labor, and to elect a slate of candidates friendly to big labor, resulted in defeat of the charter (success) and capturing slightly fewer (125 fewer) candidate votes than the three conservative candidates running independently (not so successful).

There were also 6107 votes (6.8%) cast for the non-campaigning candidates. More about this later.

Endorsed and advertised

The OC Register endorsed Mensinger, Monahan, and McCarthy while organized labor endorsed their opponents.  Both groups distributed lots of signs, and both claimed their signs were being stolen and vandalized. (The 3M’s made a video of a City employee damaging signs.)

Also of note, a newspaper columnist (Barbara Venezia) advocated splitting votes between the 3M’s and the Anti’s. She endorsed Stephens over McCarthy using a bizarre argument that Stephens had more or better experience for the City Council seat. McCarthy is an attorney who is chair of the Planning Commission which is intimately involved with the Council, whereas Stephens is a lawyer in private practice. It’s hard to tell how much effect endorsement or signage has on a candidate’s election.

Minority threw down the gauntlet to start  

Regardless of how they got their votes, the new Council started out with a bang. The pundits/commenters who opposed Mensinger and Monahan proclaimed that the majority (Mensinger, Monahan, and Righeimer, who faces re-election in two years) should “be nice.” That is, they should offer one of the minority members a position as Mayor or Mayor Pro Tem to show how much they wanted to get along. Although that would have been an unlikely mistake for this majority to make, the pundits screamed (in print, anyway) how betrayed they felt when the majority didn't meet their expectations.

And, new member Genis threw down the gauntlet in a sarcastic, abrasive and ill-advised support statement for her nominee for Mayor, fellow minority member Leece. She seems to have abandoned her “gray man” approach after being elected, for an “in-your-face,” sarcastic approach.

Leece confronts windmills, but not well

Ms. Leece, for her part, has become more active in commenting about Daily Pilot columns and letters. She took offense when a commenter pointed out that neither she nor Genis publicly condemned the tactics of intimidation and the outside money used to influence Costa Mesa’s election.

She huffed that she (personally) never took big labor money and has never been charged with a crime. (Leece’s lack of expressed disapproval of egregious behavior was criticized, not her personal crimes or acceptance of union money. She wasn't a candidate in this election, anyway.)

Leece said that the investigations aren't complete so she won’t comment until she has the facts. She or whoever is helping her write comments isn't focusing on the issue; the intimidation tactics and the outside money are well documented, although the exact dollars spent and the guilt or innocence of specific miscreants are still in question.

Votes for non-candidates

The two candidates who were not seriously campaigning received nearly 7% of the vote. (One became a candidate to publicize pet issues; the other dropped his candidacy early on but couldn't get his name removed from the ballot.) Neither actively campaigned.

Some of their votes were surely from family and friends. A few more might have come from voters who were confused. But many of their votes may have been cast by voters who opted for the non-viable candidates out of frustration and resentment about the contentious election.

Lessons from this election

The most visible lessons to learn from this election are:
            1. Hitler’s admonition to repeat simple phrases over and over and make them seem to come from different sources was well-demonstrated and probably fairly effective during this election.

            2. Fear mongering works. This factor, integrated with the repetition mentioned defeated the Charter. Propaganda can be effective in the 21st century if enough resources are thrown into the fray.

            3. Name recognition and avoiding controversy is effective for accumulating votes.

            4. Many folks who registered to vote – didn't.

Now let’s see what the Council majority can accomplish. 

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