Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Things stay the same in SMC City Council Election

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The fall 2013 elections in San Mateo County proved to be not only remarkably competitive, but also remarkably predictable. The major city council races in San Mateo County produced the following results:
City of Burlingame
In the City of Burlingame a nine-way scramble for three seats yielded few surprises.  Both popular incumbents Ann Keighran and Michael Brownrigg easily won their respective seats and will return to the council.
The real election in Burlingame was always for the third seat vacated by three-term incumbent Cathy Baylock, who backed former councilmember Russ Cohen. Cohen had served on the council from 2005-2007 in an abridged term    and, prior to his council service, on Burlingame's Traffic, Safety and Parking Commission. 
But in the end, Cohen was defeated by Ricardo Ortiz who had the backing of major endorsers such as Congresswoman Speier, Senator Hill and the local school board as well as other community leaders. Ortiz, a commercial banker, has strong community ties, having served on a variety of local service organization boards and in youth activities. Ortiz ran unsuccessfully two years against sitting councilmembers Terry Nagel and Jerry Deal and had Deal’s endorsement - but not Nagel’s.
Instead, Nagel backed sitting Planning Commissioner Nirmala Bandrapalli, who came in a distant fifth. This loss may prove pivotal for Nagel in the new term, with new alignments and allegiances.
The race also featured Andrew Pecemeier, who campaigned on a platform of eliminating waste and in the past had championed opposition to local tax measures, including those for the school district.  Pecemeier easily outspent his opponents, but garnered less than a thousand votes.
City of South San Francisco
Another crowded ballot in the City of South San Francisco also yielded few if any surprises.
The South San Francisco ballot was split this year with three four-year council seats available as well as one two-year seat vacated by former councilmember turned Assembly member Kevin Mullin, who won state office last November.
Following Mullin’s resignation, his remaining colleagues appointed retired electrical engineer and Planning Commissioner Pradeep Gupta, who ran for and won one of the three full four-year terms.  Gupta is joined by incumbent Mark Addiego and former school board member Liza Normandy, who easily cruised to a second-place finish.
The two-year seat drew three candidates including Planning Commissioner and attorney Carlos Martin, local activist Colin Post and veteran Councilmember Karyl Matsumoto, who chose to run for  the abridged term in lieu of a four-year seat. Matsumoto easily won the seat.
City of San Mateo
In the City of San Mateo, five candidates faced off for three available seats. Unsurprisingly, the two incumbents, Mayor David Lim and Deputy Mayor Robert Ross, easily retained their respective seats with Lim winning by a wide margin. Former Public Works Commissioner Joe Goethals bested Planning Commissioner Joshua Hugg and marketing executive Karen Schmidt for the third seat, with Goethals numerically tying incumbent Robert Ross for a second place tie, easily outpacing Hugg and Schmidt. Goethals was backed by Lim and the change in the council may mark a shift in its voting majority.
City of Redwood City
Redwood City also saw much of the same with incumbents Jeff Gee and John Seybert winning their respective seats to be joined by former four-term councilmember and mayor Diane Howard, who easily won the third available seat.
So, despite some spirited contests, most outcomes were never in doubt. The real consequence of the elections is in any changes or maintenance of the power dynamics among the various city council members.
City of Belmont
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the City of Belmont, where two newcomers will join veteran Warren Lieberman, attorney Charles Stone and former Planning Commissioner Eric Reed. For Lieberman, the dual retirements of former council members Coralin Feierbach and Dave Warden will provide him with a new opportunity to have like-minded colleagues who may allow him to be a rotational mayor. For the City, it represents perhaps the most dramatic philosophical shift in over a decade with a council that may favor some modest development and that can begin a new relationship with local stakeholders such as Notre Dame de Namur University. It is possible that a new day has dawned in Belmont, but how the voters will respond only time will tell.
So goes the San Mateo County City Council fall 2013 election races. Once again, no real significant changes have occurred with the elected city officials in San Mateo County.  It appears to be just another election cycle in the County.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Nine in Burlingame Council Race



Burlingame City Council Election

The 2013 elections in San Mateo County are unusually competitive and the race for the Burlingame City Council is ground zero, having attracted nine candidates vying for three seats.

The political Pandora’s Box was opened this year by sitting councilmember Cathy Baylock, who declined to run for a fourth term offering new aspirants an open seat without an incumbent running. Two incumbents are, however, running including two-term councilmember and sitting Mayor Ann Keighran.

Keighran is a popular incumbent and has sewed up virtually every endorsement possible including that of Congresswoman Jackie Speier, the state legislative delegation representing her community, every county supervisor, every local school board member, perhaps every city commissioner and all the major stakeholder groups that play a role in local elections from business to labor and beyond. With so much support, Keighran is an easy win and will likely be returned to the council.

Also running as an incumbent is first-term councilmember and Vice Mayor Michael Brownrigg. Brownrigg’s endorsements and spread of support are like that of Keighran’s and, as the top vote-getter four years ago, Brownrigg has demonstrated that he has a solid base of support and will also likely be returned to the council.

That leaves seven vying for the open seat vacated by Baylock. Among the seven candidates, there are a variety of constituencies represented and a mix of support.

Former councilmember Russ Cohen served on the council from 2005-2007 in an abridged term and, prior to his council service, on Burlingame's Traffic, Safety and Parking Commission. Cohen is seen as the inheritor of Baylock’s mantle, advocating for preservation of the city’s character and historic assets. Cohen has garnered a great deal of support from the city’s commissioners and many former leaders who still reside in the community, but less from local officeholders and larger institutional actors. But again, with so many candidates, many voters may want to replace Baylock’s voice on the council, providing Cohen with a built-in base.

To win, Cohen must get past a slew of candidates including Ricardo Ortiz who, like the incumbents, has the backing of major endorsers such as Congresswoman Speier, Senator Hill and the local school board as well as other community leaders. Ortiz, a commercial banker, has strong community ties having served on a variety of local service organization boards and in youth activities. Ortiz ran unsuccessfully two years ago against sitting councilmembers Terry Nagel and Jerry Deal and has Deal’s endorsement - but not Nagel’s.

Instead, Nagel has backed sitting planning commissioner Nirmala Bandrapalli, who has garnered some support from institutional actors such as labor, but lacks any other endorsement from local elected leaders or business groups. With Nagel’s support however, Bandrapalli can’t be counted out of the mix though, from appearances, Cohen and Ortiz have a bigger share of community support.

Another familiar face is Andrew Pecemeier, a local business owner who touts several endorsements from prominent elected officials in other communities, who are also outspoken conservatives. Pecemeier is campaigning on a platform of eliminating waste and in the past has championed opposition to local tax measures such as for the school district.

Another local businessman, Alexander England Kent, is also running for the first time. Kent lists no endorsements and is running in part on a platform of stopping perceived conflicts of interest by sitting councilmembers as well as restoring “fiscal balance”.

Rounding out the list are local store clerk Robert Schinagl and retail manager Steve Duncan, neither of whom have mounted easily discernable campaigns.

While the field is large, the real race is in the middle between Ortiz, Cohen and Bandrapalli. With so few votes likely to be cast for each, this election will be a game of inches and the candidate who works the hardest will likely get the win.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A crowded city council race in SSF




The silly season is in full swing and the filing period for local offices closed last Friday. Counter to historically somnolent elections, several local ballots are crowded and competitive.
 
In the north end of San Mateo County, the city of South San Francisco will have a knock-down, drag-out fight for open council seats with at least one incumbent retiring, an appointee attempting to capture a seat by election and a veteran taking a half-step out the door.

The South San Francisco ballot is split this year with three 4-year council seats available as well as one 2-year seat vacated by former councilmember turned Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, who won state office last November.

Following Mullin’s resignation, his remaining colleagues appointed retired electrical engineer and Planning Commissioner Pradeep Gupta, who is now running for a full four-year term.

But the two-year seat remains available and has drawn three candidates including Planning Commissioner and Attorney Carlos Martin. Martin will face four-term veteran Karyl Matsumoto, who is seeking only a two-year extension of her tenure on the council. The third candidate is local activist Collin Post, a teamster who made an unsuccessful bid for a council seat in 1997.

Martin, while a planning commissioner, is relatively new to the political scene in South San Francisco and facing a known commodity with significant name recognition.  Matsumoto is only the second woman to ever serve on the Council and one of the few Asians that has served on the Council in a city where over a third of the population is Asian. In turn, Martin would replace the only Latino ever to serve on the Council in that of Pedro Gonzalez, who is not seeking another term.

In the race for the three open, four-year term seats on the city council there are many familiar faces among eight contenders - possibly a record for South City.

Local realtor and planning commission chair Rick Ochsenhirt is making his third attempt to run for the Council, the last having been in 2003. Ochsenhirt had also applied for the open appointment last fall, but lost out to fellow commissioner Gupta, who is also seeking a council seat.

A former planning commissioner, John Prouty, is also seeking a council seat. Prouty, like Ochsenhirt, is a realtor and also applied for the open appointment last fall. Community volunteer William “Bill” Lock has also filed for one of the four-year seats. Lock has little apparent support and it is unclear if he will be a factor in the race. The same is likely the case with full-time business student Kate Mackay, who is also running.

Current school board trustee Liza Normandy has also thrown her hat into the ring. Normandy is serving her second term on the South San Francisco School Board where she has served twice as president. Normandy has garnered a great deal of support, including endorsements from Matsumoto and Rich Garbarino - the only councilmember who does not have an election this year. In addition, Normandy is supported by all of her fellow school board members as well as other local elected representatives, outpacing her competitors. Should she win, Normandy would be the third woman to ever serve on the South San Francisco city council in over 100 years. And should Matsumoto win, it would also be the first time two women would be serving on that council simultaneously.

But Normandy will also face fellow school trustee Maurice Dupra Goodman, who is also serving his second term in that position.

Finally, veteran councilmember Mark Addiego is seeking his third consecutive term on the council. Addiego is a veteran of South San Francisco politics, having first been elected to the council at age 24 in 1980, taking about a 20-year break and returning to office in 2005.

Addiego is likely a lock to return to the council, but among the two other possibilities it remains unclear though the odds and support favor Gupta and Normandy.

All of the candidate statements for the eleven contenders can be viewed online as local voters will have much to sort through, which may also help the incumbents and those whose names have appeared on the ballot before.

South San Francisco’s council race is but one example of perhaps four local races that have attracted numerous candidates. The others are Burlingame, Belmont and San Carlos.

The silly season will be a good one this year. Stay tuned.